Maria Menounos on the 'Beverly Hills Dog Show' & Why Canines Are 'Gifts from God'

Scott Fishman
BEVERLY HILLS DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA - Season 2020
Q&A Erik Voake/NBC

Put your paws up if you could use a cute and cuddly distraction.

The fourth annual Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina, airing May 17 on NBC, certainly fits the bill, promises the event's red carpet correspondent, Maria Menounos

“It’s a fun escape," Menounos tells TV Insider. "I think it’s important to have these moments of levity in your life when you’re dealing with dark things and dark times." (It taped February 29 before the coronavirus crisis forced much of the country to shut down.)

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If you're looking for dog tips or just love those cute canines, you won't want to miss this five-day event.

Menounos, for one, has a special affinity for four-legged friends. After the TV personality underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor in 2017, her poodle, Whinnie, stayed by her side. "[It] helped me heal tremendously and helped me escape in some moments," Menounos continues. "I hope that is what the Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina provides people."

The event, hosted by the American Kennel Club and produced by NBC Sports, features more than 1,500 canines representing 200 eligible breeds and varieties. Each group winner will walk the runway looking to join last year’s Havanese, Bono, for 2020 “Best in Show.”  

We chatted with Menounos to preview the show and catch up on everything else the host has been up to these days. 

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What are some of the things you’ve been doing to keep yourself positive? 

Maria Menounos: I took my podcast “Better Together with Maria Menounos” from a weekly show to a daily show, specifically for that reason. [The coronavirus crisis] was very scary and overwhelming at first. I wanted a place we could all go to that would be sane and positive and an escape for an hour from the madness of what is going on in the world. I started going live at 11 a.m. Pacific on my YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. It is still available on demand through Apple Podcast and Spotify. 

I’m bringing in the experts and the healers to help us in all areas of our life whether it’s emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, relationships and so much more. It has been really helpful because when you have these experts come on they can really give you tools to help you through a crisis. That’s what we need right now. We need positivity. We need tools. I’ve been doing this along with being with my family and making sure we’re keeping my parents safe and healthy. 

Maria Menounos

Akbar Gbajabiamila and Maria Menounos (Photo by: Erik Voake/NBC)

One of the positives to come out of these times for many is being able to provide extra love and attention to their pets.

Dogs are incredible gifts from God. They always have been. I think one of the beautiful things we’ve seen in this crisis is people going into shelters and overwhelmingly adopting and saving these animals. It’s a time where everyone needs a companion when they’re in quarantine. They make you feel calm. They’re healing. Just amazing creatures. We have three. Whinnie and William, my two little poodles. Then there is my German Shepherd, Maximus, and my parents’ dog, a little Tibetan Spaniel named Beethoven. 

Do you have the itch to get another one? 

I always want more. I want every breed. That’s why I go to this dog show every year. It’s so fun. I’m always like, “Let’s do it! Let’s get a Bichon. Let’s get a Collie.” The truth is I think we’re good with three dogs, and my parents’ being four when they’re here. That is more than enough for us to handle. 

I know the show was filmed in February before the stay-at-home orders and shutdowns really started to take hold. What was the atmosphere like for you this year? 

I think it was soon after that everything just changed. It was totally carefree, business as usual. Normal. Fun. There was no thought of social distancing at this point. We had an incredible day. The red carpet was more filled with celebrities than ever before. The show gets bigger every year. It was just the normal, amazing day I look forward to every year. 

Who were some of your favorites that you saw? 

Olivia Culpo, who was a friend, was there. We had a lot of fun together. Brian Baumgartner was there from The Office. Of course, my favorite had to be Doug the Pug. That face is so priceless. I did a really fun TikTok with him. 

Your dogs are social media influencers in their own right, no? 

Whinnie has [an Instagram page]. I don’t post very often. Max has one. It’s hard enough to keep up with my own social platforms, but they do have them and are fun. 

There are two new breeds being featured in the competition: Barbet and Dogo Argentino. What are your thoughts? 

I’m in awe of the breeds that compete. If you add more, it’s just going to make me happier and people in general happier. When you get to see your dog represented, it’s so cool. The show is expanding and growing in every way. The red carpet was jammed this year, so celebrities are starting to come out and realize this is such a fun event to take your kids to and really have a great experience. 

BEVERLY HILLS DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA - Season 2020

Hosts John O’Hurley, Maria Menounos and American Kennel Club-licensed judge and expert analyst David Frei. (Photo by: Erik Voake/NBC)

You and your husband Keven Undergaro have grown AfterBuzz TV so much. This network was at the forefront of what we’re seeing now with after shows and fan shows online. What do you make of its success? 

AfterBuzz has been around a decade. We did precede shows like Talking Dead. Our passion for television is evident in that we cover everything. Not just the popular shows. The mainstream shows. We’re doing sci-fi, DIY, Hallmark Channel. We are covering everything. It has evolved in this last year in what we are calling an artist-friendly entertainment news platform. For us, we are the news platform for the 21st century where it is artist-friendly as evidenced by a recent article we posted about Kanye West. We have expanded to where we’re Google news accredited. We are a bonafide news organization. 

We are publishing 90 articles a week. We have some incredible writers that are contributing. We have original content that we’ve expanded, especially quarantine content. We’re really catering to the niches. We have our own 90-Day Fiancé daily show, The Challenge, Bachelor. It has been really exciting. Our team has been incredible in this quarantine from our hosts, staff, producing these shows via the safety of their homes. Like everyone else, we’re trying to hang on during this crisis and not lose what we’ve worked so hard for. It has been difficult for everybody. 

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What do you think the entertainment industry as a whole will be like when we come out of this period? 

I feel often desperation brings innovation. Anything we go through in life that is tough, we always have the opportunity to grow and do things better. It is for a fortune teller to try and figure out what is going to officially happen. But I hope that from it does come innovation. I believe it will. I believe there will be a unified front for people to be empathetic toward one another. I was talking to a producing partner of mine. Right now, we’re living in a time where we’re all experiencing things. We’re all in Zoom meetings, having kids running in the background. We’re all suffering different anxieties, fears. People are being laid off. People are worried about their financial future and their health. 

We all have the same fears right now, on equal ground. Hopefully, we’ll all lead in a better direction together. It’s a wild, wild thing that has happened. Hopefully, we’ll take the good things and grow on that. I pray every single night that this goes as quickly as it came and that we can resume our lives and relieve our front-line workers and people who are risking their lives every day to keep us fed and safe. Hopefully, we can get relief quickly. 

The Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina, May 17, 8/7c, NBC