PASADENA, Calif. -- Growing up in Natrona Heights and Fox Chapel, TV host Beth Stern was accustomed to pets.
"My parents' first-born was a rescued collie mix," she said. "We had guinea pigs, cats, baby chicks we got for Easter. We always had animals in our lives."
Now that she's 40 and married to radio host Howard Stern, the former Beth Ostrosky is as into pets as ever. The couple have four cats -- "We've been averaging adopting an adult cat a year for the past four years" -- and Mrs. Stern doted on her English bulldog, Bianca, who died last summer. Mr. and Mrs. Stern both got the dog's name tattooed on their bodies.
"Our lives revolved around her," Mrs. Stern said. "We didn't go away for the last few years because she was at home and getting old. We put her comfort before ours. We hate air conditioning but dogs need it, so we'd drive around with the air conditioning at full blast, and we'd be freezing and the dog was perfectly comfortable."
So Mrs. Stern may know a thing or two about "Spoiled Rotten Pets," a new series she hosts that premieres episodes at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday on Nat Geo Wild.
In Saturday's show, Mrs. Stern visits a family that owns two pet pigs that have their own playhouse but often live inside the couple's New Hope, Pa., home.
"How big are the poops?" Mrs. Stern asks before going hunting in the yard. "I have to tell Howard how big the poops are before I adopt one."
She also visits a "reptile guy" who houses turtles, snakes and 100 more animals in his New Jersey home's basement. And there's also a meeting of Pup Scouts in Manhattan, including one dog whose owner has bought her pet more than 200 dresses, 100 toys and seven beds.
"She gets the better food, and I eat peanut butter sandwiches," the owner says. "That's what moms do: You put your children first."
Mrs. Stern, who previously wrote the book "Oh My Dog" and starred in programs on HGTV ("Mom Caves"), ABC ("True Beauty") and G4 ("Filter"), serves as spokeswoman for the North Shore Animal League America. She said the people on "Spoiled Rotten Pets" aren't that different from her.
"I don't have human children, but I have pets," she said. "It's fascinating to see how far people go to spoil their pets. ... It's beautiful and heartwarming. Some of it is really silly, but I think it's fantastic."
Mrs. Stern became a pescatarian in 2011 after releasing a rescued seagull on Thanksgiving morning only to come home to a turkey on the dining room table.
"Howard and I looked at each other and looked at that turkey, and that was the moment," she said. "There was a bird on our table and we'd just saved a bird. All I could see was my seagull in the middle of the table. I have not craved chicken or turkey since."
After graduating in 1990 from Fox Chapel High School, where she had been homecoming queen, Mrs. Stern studied English literature at the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a model in her time off. After her junior year at Pitt, her modeling agency said she was ready to model in Europe, so she left school and embarked on a modeling career.
In 2000 she was working at "The Late Show With David Letterman" as "one of the girls who did sketches at the top of the show" when a co-worker invited her to a dinner party. That's where she met Howard Stern; they married in 2008.
Initially the coupling did not go over well at home in Fox Chapel when Mrs. Stern delivered the news to her mother, Judy Ostrosky, who had never listened to Mr. Stern's radio show but knew him only by his brash on-air persona. (Her father, retired oral surgeon Bob Ostrosky, had heard Mr. Stern on the radio and was a fan, Mrs. Stern said.)
"I told my mom I'd met the most amazing guy and he might be 'the one,' and she'd never heard that from me before," Mrs. Stern said. She told her mother her suitor was in media, which prompted her mom to guess it might be Mel Gibson or Brad Pitt. "I said, 'Howard Stern,' and my mother, a devout Catholic, very conservative, let out this gasp I'd never heard and slammed the phone down and did not talk to me for two weeks."
But Mrs. Stern said her mom met Mr. Stern and now "adores him." Mr. Stern has made it to Pittsburgh with his wife only once during a New York hurricane scare a few years ago when the couple evacuated their Southampton home.
"He liked the view of the rivers from my parents' townhouse," Mrs. Stern said, "and going through the [Fort Pitt] tunnel. The second it opens up, it's the best thing ever."
Nat Geo Wild is carried on Channel 118 on traditional Comcast systems and on Channel 165 in former Adelphia areas (Channel 1262 HD on all systems) and on Channel 132 on Verizon's FiOS TV (Channel 632 HD). Armstrong cable does not carry Nat Geo Wild. On satellite, Nat Geo Wild can be found on DirecTV's Channel 283 and on DISH Network's Channel 190.
Ryan Lochte show on E!
Goofy Olympic swimming star Ryan Lochte gets his own reality show at 10 p.m. Sunday with "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" on E!
The show seems to be an exercise in mocking Mr. Lochte by portraying him as a himbo who loses his place while expounding on his interest in fashion, can't define his own term, "the Lochte edge," can't remember how many Olympic medals he won and constantly says the made up word "Jeah!" but doesn't seem to know what it means or signifies.
He's depicted as a horndog ("Going out looking for a date, I don't really have to do that, they come to me") and a guy who just wants to find the right girl and settle down.
Like the most desperate-for-plot reality shows, "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" airheadedly ambles from scene to constructed scene with its star partying, playing football with his posse and hanging with his family. The show is exactly the big dumb waste you'd expect.
More upcoming premieres
If the jocular behavior of an Olympic star is not to your taste, there are more highbrow offerings this weekend, including "All the President's Men Revisited" (8 p.m. Sunday, Discovery), featuring Robert Redford in a look back at the Watergate scandal.
PBS debuts a new three-part drama, "The Bletchley Circle" (10 p.m. Sunday, WQED-TV), the story of four women who cracked codes during World War II and in 1952 reunite to solve a series of murders targeting women.
To coincide with Earth Day next week, HBO debuts the documentary "An Apology to Elephants" (7 p.m. Monday), narrated by Lily Tomlin, about the abuse of elephants and their importance in global ecology.
Also on Monday, PBS's "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," from the Oakland-based Fred Rogers Company, presents an Earth Day-themed episode at 11 a.m. on WQED-TV.
Keep or Cancel?
It's your final chance to vote in this year's Keep or Cancel? poll at post-gazette.com/tv (scroll down and you'll see a link on the right side of the page). Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Vote and let the networks know which shows you like and which programs you would send packing. We'll publish the results soon and also send them to broadcast network executives.
Showtime confirmed Thursday that the upcoming eighth season of "Dexter" (9 p.m. June 30) will be the show's final season. ... AMC's "Breaking Bad" returns for its final eight episodes at 10 p.m. Aug. 11 and will be followed by a weekly live half-hour after-show, "Talking Bad" at 11 p.m. The network's "Hell on Wheels" returns Aug. 3 as AMC expands its original programming to Saturday nights. ... After just one episode that drew 2.14 million viewers over multiple airings last Friday, Starz has renewed "Da Vinci's Demons" for a second season to air in 2014. ... The launch of Esquire Network, the former G4, that was scheduled for Monday, has been delayed until sometime this summer so the channel can add more programs at its launch. ... The premiere of Syfy's "Defiance" marked the network's most-watched scripted series premiere in the 18-49 demo since "Eureka" in 2006 -- 2.7 million total viewers tuned in.
Tuned In online
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Ice Road Truckers," "Blue Bloods" and Nielsen ratings. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Deadliest Catch," "Dallas," "Hemlock Grove" and "Southland." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversations about "Nurse Jackie," "Veep" and "Scandal." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published April 19, 2013 4:00 AM