Plenty of cat calls for all-feline television show

Friday, July 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Esther Friesner fluffed the pink boa draped across her neck, adjusted her Cat Woman ears, thanked her cats for their support and summoned forth her best inner feline.

``Meow, meow, meow, meow,'' she sang, her voice pitched high in imitation of a commercial for cat food. ``I want turkey, salmon and chicken, oceanfish flavors keep me lickin'.''

Friesner, a science fiction writer from Connecticut, was one of dozens of adults and kids Wednesday trying out for a spot on ``Meow TV,'' a new show being shopped around for the fall season for cats.

No, not for cat lovers. For cats.

``If you can imagine the Discovery Channel for cats,'' said Richard Thompson, CEO of Meow Mix cat food, who is producing the show. ``There will be squirrels, bouncing balls, birds and all the things cats love to watch.''

Lacking opposable thumbs, felines will have to rely on their owners to tune in to the half-hour show.

According to Thompson, there are 85 million cats in 35 million American households, and 22 percent of pet owners watch TV shows they know their pets enjoy. He thinks he's got a consumer market.

Thompson hopes to put lots of children on the program, so he launched an eight-city auditioning tour _ other stops include Atlanta and Dallas. He's also looking for the ``Vanna White of cats'' to host the new show.

``I like cats a lot, I have two at home,'' said Melanie Bayon, 14, of New York, who took a turn at the microphone. ``I also want to be an actress.''

Her father George is still a bit skeptical of the concept.

``They sit by the TV but I don't know if they watch it,'' he said of the family cats.

The tryout was a good place to find that extreme devotion some people have for their pets.

``I have to confess I often talk to my cat,'' said Catherine Goodman, after she belted out a spirited yet shrill meow. ``They were my role models growing up.''