To most television viewers, John O’Hurley (photo credit, Virginia Sherwood/NBC) is best known for his role of J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” or his nearly 12-year daytime-television career on shows including “The Young and the Restless,” “All My Children,” “Loving,” “Santa Barbara” and “The Edge of Night,” or being crowned the ultimate champion on the very first season of “Dancing With the Stars.” However, this is the time of year when John goes to the dogs — literally.
On Thanksgiving Day, from noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones (directly following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), John will be hosting the ninth annual “National Dog Show Presented by Purina” on NBC. And believe me, they didn’t have to twist his arm to get him to return to his hosting duties!
Celebrity Extra: I know you’re a dog lover, but what are some particular aspects about “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” that keep you coming back?
John O’Hurley: Well, I think for us it’s the happiest day of the year. We go there, and we are surrounded by 2,000 dogs. Our favorite time is not really what’s going on in the ring there, but rather when my wife and I take a walk backstage and see all the breeders and all the dogs, and walking up and down the aisles. It’s pretty spectacular to see 165 different breeds.
CE: Now, I know you already know quite a bit about dogs, being a dog owner and all, but you must learn a lot more about them just through your hosting duties.
JO: Well, thank goodness I have David Frei with me, who is the most knowledgeable man in the world of dogs, and there’s nothing he does not know about them. So a little of that has rubbed off on me in a good way.
CE: I’m excited that this year they are introducing a bunch of new dog breeds. Especially the Cane Corso, which is a mammoth but is the sweetest dog in the world, and also the Bluetick Coonhound. What are you excited about?
JO: Definitely that! We did our photo session, and David and I — you want to talk about never working with kids or animals! — we had to work with all six of them. To try to get one photo together, it took nearly four hours. It is exciting to introduce that many new breeds, and they are all beautiful dogs.
CE: What part of the actual hosting duties do you look forward to most when you do this?
JO: My favorite part is when the Irish Setter comes into the ring. It represents to me what a beautiful dog should look like. The way the hair is cut — it’s such an athletic movement when the dog comes in, and it’s just beautiful to me. So I always look for the Irish Setter.
CE: This show always has such a huge audience. We’re pushing 20 million viewers. To what do you attribute its great success?
JO: Well, I think it’s an extraordinary piece of programming. This is a great show on a family day. If you put this show on any other time of the week, I don’t think it would do near as well. It just happens to be sitting there on the perfect family day and gives something that everybody wants to watch. Rather than football, which is regional and certainly male-oriented. But this is a show that the family can watch.
CE: You had told me in one of our previous interviews that your son, William, loves to accompany you, loves to be involved backstage. Will we see him again this year?
JO: Yep, he’ll be there. He’s very excited. He loves going to the show.
CE: It’s like a kid in a candy store, except with dogs.
JO: It really is. Since this is a benched show — and I think you know what that means — it means they all have to stay there through the entire show. It’s one of the great events for parents to bring children to. If you go backstage, you’ll see a lot of the attending audiences are parents and kids. It’s just a wonderful idea to bring them up and down so they can see all the different breeds. They can talk to the breeders and get some tips if they are in the market for a pet. Then they’ll get the right answers about whether this dog actually parallels their lifestyle, which is really the message we try to get out every year.
CE: On another subject, I personally would like to start a campaign now for you, as a song-and-dance man with a wicked sense of humor, that you need to guest-star on “Glee.”
JO: Well, isn’t that funny. They’ve been talking about it, as kind of a family member or love interest for Sue (Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch). And I think between the two of us, we would actually corner the market on arrogance and pomposity.
CE: Well, I’m going to help forward that campaign. I think that would be wonderful. I thought that was my original idea, but I’m glad to see that other people are thinking the same way!
JO: Actually, a dear friend of mine had dinner with two of the producers and they said they had already reached that idea.
CE: I know that Steve Harvey is doing a bang-up job hosting “Family Feud” now, but I still get tons of letters from my readers telling me that they still miss having you as the host.
JO: Oh, how sweet.
CE: What do you miss most about the show, and what could you say to my readers who miss you?
JO: Well, I had a wonderful time with that. But they wanted to move the show to Orlando, and with my child responsibilities here, that just wasn’t going to happen. So, I have to look at it as four phenomenal years, and I miss the show dearly, but it frees me up to do so many other things. I’m back on Broadway and will be heading back to Broadway again, and those are things that I just couldn’t do as freely when I was committed to “Family Feud.”
CE: What are you going to be doing on Broadway? Is it finalized yet?
JO: I just finished “Chicago,” and I probably will head back over the holidays to do another stint in “Chicago.” And then I have another tentative long-term offer to do another show there, but that one I can’t talk about just yet.
CE: Like most of America, I’m a huge “Dancing With the Stars” fan, and I was mortified by Bruno’s comments to your friend Michael Bolton. I was just wondering what your reaction was to that?
JO: I love Bruno. And I think his color on the show helps the show along a lot. I mean he really should be outrageous. However, my concern is when your comments become mean-spirited like that. And I think it was a mean-spirited comment. I think if he had to do it over again, he probably would have put the words back in his mouth. But my concern is that agents who protect their clients, and especially high-profile clients, will think twice now about allowing their clients to do the show. That’s my concern. That show lives and breathes on the back and the sweat of the people doing the show. It doesn’t live on the comments of the judges. So I think they need to remember that every time they make a comment like that. If they want to continue to get high-profile people — which is really what drives that show — encourage, don’t discourage.
CE: I agree. You can be critical with your comments, but they need to be constructive and affirming.
JO: Absolutely — the judges are there to help, not belittle. Michael worked really, really hard. That weekend Michael was doing the show, he was also flying around doing concerts and doing his charity golf tournament, all at the exact same time. And he was still able to fit the rehearsals in during all of that. I mean, he was just like triple-tasking that week. And I don’t think the comments were really indicative of the work that Michael put in. I just think they were wrong.