Right of Reply: Mark Linsey, the producer of BBC1's Petes win prizes, defends the animal centred game show

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The Independent Culture
Hosted by Danny Baker, Pets Win Prizes received a critical thumbs-down. 'The show, though awful, was so innocuous that I doubt if anyone at the RSPCA got hot under the collar,' said the Daily Telegraph. The Financial Times noted: 'It seems that everything is being forced into the game-show format', while the Independent's Thomas Sutcliffe was speechless: 'No, it wasn't Carlton . . . I'm not making it up. Look, check the bloody Radio Times if you don't believe me.'

'I think the BBC is in a no-win situation. It's trying to engage high ratings, bring in viewing, and at the same time add something fresh and different to primetime television. Pets Win Prizes is fresh and different, I don't care what people say, there is nothing like it on TV. It's the viewers who are the main critics and nearly six million people watched in Week 2.

'I dispute the charge that it is just a gimmick. It is both a good idea and a good game show. People watch it on two levels, in the same way they watch Big Break on two levels, as a game show and because they like snooker. People like animals, and they also like a good, fun game show.

Of course it's light, it's not a nature documentary, but I deny that it is bland. Obviously we only do what comes naturally to the animals, we never put them in an environment that will scare them at all. You can't have bungee-jumping mice, but seeing cockroach- and sheep-racing or dogs trying to catch tennis balls is hardly bland. We like to feel that the animals do enjoy it in the same way that dogs enjoy Cruft's.

It certainly isn't cheap - a lot of the money goes into ensuring that the items are safe and that the animals are comfortable. We don't feel that we've humiliated them in the slightest - people should be more worried about people being humiliated on Beadle's About or You've Been Framed. That said, it is hard for a stick insect or a tree frog to be humiliated. If you start taking it to an extreme, you'll be saying that a David Attenborough wildlife programme showing animals copulating is an invasion of privacy.

'There is a lot of irony, that's one of Danny Baker's strengths - he isn't your everyday game- show host. We take Pets Win Prizes very seriously as a production team - we sit round saying, 'What can we do with chinchillas this week?' - we discuss it for however long it takes. I don't know who the laugh is on - the viewers or us.'

Interview with Mark Linsey by Dominic Cavendish

'Pets Win Prizes', Sat BBC 1

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