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Mark Peters

 

You don't have to look far to see how or why the pet industry is booming in Hong Kong. On any given Sunday, there are more dogs than people on the Sai Kung promenade - many of them better groomed than their owners - and each week seems to bring yet another pet spa or boutique. Clearly some of us are pet obsessed. But is our mollycoddling doing more harm than good?

One Nation Under Dog (above; HBO Signature, tonight at 10pm) explores the complex issues involved in canine ownership, and it's not your typical heart-warming story of doggie devotion. The three-part miniseries, subtitled " Fear", " Loss" and " Betrayal", is unflinching and at times difficult to watch.

The programme reveals how spoiling dogs can harm the very nature of the beast, as it were. Unconditional love and a lack of proper training may be misinterpreted as surrendering leadership to your dog, and can lead to anxiety and aggression. And if you make it to the third instalment, be prepared for the series' pivotal scene: filmed at an animal shelter it shows abandoned dogs that have run out of time and are being put to sleep. They are just a few of the millions who suffer this fate every year and it's ghastly to watch. But it's also a wake-up call: if fewer dogs were mistreated, intentionally or unintentionally, there would be fewer behavioural issues and fewer lost causes.

There are some uplifting and touching stories in with the despair, as we witness the rewarding work of rescue-shelter staff and the loyalty and affection these dogs offer in return for their rehabilitation. One Nation Under Dog is both shocking and inspirational, and there is a great deal of bite to its bark.

Offering a lighter look at the natural world, Extraordinary Animals (BBC Knowledge, Thursday at 9.50pm) returns with back-to-back episodes. The series investigates creatures with unique and exceptional abilities but, while eye-opening and mildly amusing, this is no Attenborough documentary. We begin with Maggie, a Pythagorean Jack Russell Terrier, who can do sums better than your average seven-year-old. The programme sets out to explore the science behind the dog's mathematical skills; does she understand the concept of numbers or is she simply responding to her owner's subtle cues? Entertaining? Sure. Extraordinary? Hmmm.

What is extraordinary, certainly, is how anyone got approval for a sophomore season of XIII (Cinemax, Friday at 10pm), based on the adrenalin-fuelled graphic novel and video game of the same name. Amnesiac secret agent Thirteen (Stuart Townsend; Queen of the Damned) has gone rogue and is caught up in a terrorist plot. It's political intrigue as we've seen it done before, over and over, but this level of overacting hasn't been seen since B.A. Baracus of The A-Team refused to get on that plane. Thirteen is the poor man's Jason Bourne and bears a passing resemblance to Jack Bauer, but that's where the similarities with the Matt Damon trilogy and 24 end. XIII has less suspense than The Great British Bake Off and, for an action show, it's terribly slow.

It's not just that XIII is bad; it's as flat as road kill and deserves to be sent straight to the doghouse.

 

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