Review: How to Pet a Dog and Other Gnawing Issues in ‘Going Deep With David Rees’

Date: Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

“Don’t overthink it” is usually pretty good advice; the list of things that can be made worse or less enjoyable by too much analysis is endless. But “Going Deep With David Rees” turns overthinking into an art form.

 In each episode, Mr. Rees, a humorist who works a pleasant mix of wisecracks and self-deprecation, explores a subject that most of us didn’t even realize needed exploring. The show, first seen last year on the National Geographic Channel, now finds itself on Esquire, where a fresh season begins on Wednesday night with an installment called “How to Pet a Dog.” Yes, that’s how basic Mr. Rees’s investigations are.

 What’s there to know about petting a dog? Well, a lot, especially if you look at it from the dog’s perspective, which Mr. Rees does, with the help of some experts. He also brings personal baggage to this particular inquiry: He doesn’t really like dogs. He even seems a bit afraid of them.

 His quest takes him on a frivolous visit to the actress and writer Amy Sedaris, who is a fan of rabbits and demonstrates some of her petting techniques for that animal. (She has names for those techniques; for instance, there’s “the carwash,” a circular, scratchy sort of motion.) But he also gets serious and stops at places, including the Yale Canine Cognition Center, whose director, Laurie Santos, tells him that most people pet dogs incorrectly and misperceive their signals, like tail wagging. Dogs, she says, wag their tails in lots of situations; the wagging just means they’re alert, not necessarily that they’re rapturous.

 Mr. Rees also learns about research into whether dogs can smell cancer in humans, puts on one of those padded suits so that he can be attacked by a dog (the suit, it turns out, needed a little more padding), and more. The episode is a fine example of Mr. Rees’s loopy methodology, which in previous installments he has applied to subjects including swatting flies, tying shoes and shaking hands. Start with an everyday act, follow tangents of all sorts, and in the end come out more knowledgeable.

 The season’s second episode, “How to Eavesdrop,” isn’t quite as spunky, but it’s still pretty useful. Hint: If you’re trying to eavesdrop through a wall, a stethoscope is a better amplifier than a glass.

 

Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/arts/television/review-how-to-pet-a-dog-and-other-gnawing-issues-in-going-deep-with-david-rees.html?_r=1