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October 9, 2015

Seven reasons I watch Animal Planet

by Jackie Schnoop, posted Feb 6th 2008 10:00AM
Animal PlanetGrowing up as a child of the television generation, I was always mesmerized by any shows having to do with nature or animals. I'd glue myself to the set as Marlin Perkins and Jacques Cousteau took me on fantastic adventures far removed from my own life of domesticated animals.

But I always loved the domestic animals as well. Dogs and cats have always been a part of my life and I'm enriched by their presence in our world. What I didn't have when I was growing up was an Animal Planet exploring the world of animals from pets to deadly predators. From sentimental to educational to outright odd and scary, Animal Planet explores both the worlds of the wilds and the inner cities -- as long as there are animals involved. And, it's not just for kids.

Often when I'm channel surfing I end up hanging around Animal Planet, but there are some shows I'll deliberately seek out. I'm going to focus on them right here, right now.

1. Meerkat Manor is the ultimate reality show for those who enjoy real reality television. Oh, yes, it's a narrated show and if the meerkats involved could talk they might share an entirely different story. Cameras have been set up throughout the Kalahari Desert documenting the activities of a meerkat mob called the Whiskers. Each meerkat is given a name and regular viewers tend to grow attached to them in a sort of vicarious way.

The documenters do just that. They document the activities, but they don't interfere with the lives of the 12-inch-high meerkats. Nature runs its own course and that means that a young meerkat may be carried away by a hawk or attacked by a snake, another might lose its life in a territorial struggle with another group of meerkats. What I've discovered is that the life of a meerkat is a constant fight to live. I've seen Shakespeare die (no, not William -- he's been dead forever -- I'm talking Shakespeare the meerkat). Well, he actually just vanished and it was later revealed he died. Flower, the matriarch of the Whiskers, died this past season.

The show can be unbelievably brutal at times, but the meerkats are delightfully entertaining and smart little creatures which make it all worthwhile. Mind you, they wouldn't make good pets. You'd be better off with a mere cat, not a meerkat.

2. Animal Precinct takes me far away from the Kalahari Desert and into New York City, a place with which I'm much more familiar. While they show horrible cases of folks who never should have animals (or children), many of the tails...er...tales on the show have happy endings with the abused or neglected animals returned to health and finding new homes. I fear that happy ending scenario probably isn't the norm.

Teaming with the ASCPA, the officers of Animal Precinct take on cases throughout the five boroughs of New York City. From neglected pets to wild animals in Central Park to black cowboys in Brooklyn and their ramshackle horse stables, the show has it all. As I watch it with my own rather spoiled 15-year-old cat I remind her how good she has it. After all, if those animal cops came to my door I could only be arrested for giving her too many cat toys and treats. An added bonus to watching this show is that I'll occasionally see one of its "stars" on the local news when an animal story hits the city. Yep, real reality once again.

3. The annual Puppy Bowl with Kitty Halftime is just plain old adorable and sweet. Despite all the hoopla about the Super Bowl, some of us just don't watch football. Yes, it's true, believe it or not. But each year on Super Bowl Sunday, I'll watch some of the Puppy Bowl...usually with the hopes of catching Kitty Halftime.

Oh, no -- there really isn't much of a plot to it at all and the game really doesn't abide by any rules, per se. But I'm talking puppies. I'm talking kittens. How can you resist watching them play? It's the kind of thing which just has you sitting and smiling as you watch. Now, you can't always say that for the game of football. Sure, you smile and perhaps jump for joy as your hometown wins, but there may be disappointment and possibly even anger if the hometown loses. Not so with Puppy Bowl! In this show, they're all winners and they surely beat Manning or Brady in the outright cuteness factor. This show is tops in the "aww, too cute" television.

4. Orangutan Island takes us out of America and into the wilds of Borneo. The show is similar to Meerkat Manor albeit with human interference. As with the meerkats, the orangutans are documented and each is given a name so the viewers tend to get attached. But unlike the meerkats, the orangutans on this show exist in this society due to man's intervention.

The orangutans are often targets of poachers and just plain mean people, as well as uniformed folks who think they're pet material. The ones featured on the show have been rescued and are put in a rather strange environment for the naturally solitary primate. They're segregated on an island together and form their own sort of society often doing things orangutans left to nature just don't do -- like the time the herbivores started eating fish.

Orangutan Island isn't as brutal for the most part as Meerkat Manor as humans interact with them, provide medical attention, and bring food on a regular basis. Even so, there is the occasional death of an orangutan beyond the control of the human intervention. But death is a part of the cycle. We all know that, right?

The show highlights the intelligence and ingenuity of the orangutans. They're definitely smart animals and their facial expressions really indicate something is going on in their minds. While the show is a bit of an adventure in anthropomorphism, it's not a far stretch as the orangutans show such human qualities. This one's a keeper for me although I really don't want an orangutan of my own. If I did, then the Animal Police would have a reason to come knocking at my door, eh?

5. The A-List can often be an amusing and educational half-hour even with its campy comedic commentary by various Z-List celebrities. Each show is a countdown list of a top ten topic ranging from best moms to biggest troublemakers and almost everything imaginable in between.

It's a fun little romp which encompasses all kinds of animals in its trials and tribulations. As I mentioned, the commentary tends to the campy and the corny, but the highlights of the animals (or insects at times) involved is certainly high quality and thought-provoking. Heck, they could probably make this show work without the humans chiming in. The list possibilities for the show are as infinite as the number of animals who exist or ever have existed on the planet, so I think The A-List will be with us for some time to come.

6. The Crocodile Hunter. Yes, Steve Irwin met a tragic end, but this show is still a staple of the new generation animal-related show and was responsible for giving Animal Planet its rise in popularity. Sure, there's Jeff Corwin and that dude in the hippopotamus suit on the Discovery Channel. But no one could ever beat the childlike excitement of Irwin, mates!

Steve's amazement, awe of the animal kingdom, and his way with the crocodiles and other dangerous animals made the show special. It was like letting a little boy in an adult costume go wild with nature. His exuberance and excitable boy attributes brought something unique to the show even if crocodiles might creep you out a bit. On a more adult level, Irwin did many laudable deeds for the animals themselves. Bindi will carry on and she's a sweetie, but there will always be a special spot in my heart for Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter.

7. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Yes, the show which mesmerized me and took me to worlds so far removed from my home when I was a child is here once again. Well, Marlin Perkins is long gone but show carries on with its latest home on Animal Planet. Always incredibly educational and filmed well, modern technology has breathed new life into the discoveries of nature.

There isn't an episode of this show without an amazing and breathtaking view of nature in the wilds. Once I turn to the show, I just can't stop watching no matter the locale or topic of the episode. What a joy it is that Wild Kingdom is still taking us through the world so many years after its inception! My childhood favorite nature show is entertaining and educating a new generation. How cool is that?

What's your favorite Animal Planet show?
None - don't watch Animal Planet4 (1.8%)
Meerkat Manor39 (17.6%)
Orangutan Island20 (9.0%)
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom10 (4.5%)
The A-List2 (0.9%)
The Crocodile Hunter45 (20.3%)
Puppy Bowl (with Kitty Halftime!)13 (5.9%)
Animal Precinct20 (9.0%)
Corwin's Quest10 (4.5%)
It's Me or the Dog9 (4.1%)
Animal Cops (Detroit, Houston, San Francisco)17 (7.7%)
Miami Animal Police3 (1.4%)
Planet's Funniest Animals11 (5.0%)
Planet's Best with Terri and Bindi6 (2.7%)
Jane Goodall2 (0.9%)
Petfinder4 (1.8%)
Other - tell us in comments!7 (3.2%)

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Richard Zimmerman

Thank you so much for your kind words about 'Orangutan Island'. I'm glad you like it so much. You will be pleased to know that the show has been signed for a second season! :-)

I'd just like to address a few points so your readers might better understand the story behind the orangutans on the island. Nearly every one of them came to the Nyaru Menteng Rehabiltation Center as a baby after his or her mother had been brutally killed on a palm oil plantation. Most babies aren't so lucky. They end up as illegal pets or die in transit. A baby orangutan, like a human baby, needs a mother. These babies were fortunate enough to be confiscated from poachers, traders and plantation workers and brought to the Center where they received a tremendous amount of love and attention from their human caregivers. They were given names upon their arrival. With over 650 orangutans at the Center, naming them is obligatory. It is the only way to distinguish them. As they grow up, they learn to respond to their names, much like any other domesticated mammal. So just to clarify, they weren't given arbitrary names by the show's producers in order to create a cute storyline. Daisy is Daisy and Chen Chen is Chen Chen-- even when the cameras are turned off. Unlike the meerkats (where there were in fact many 'Flowers') each orangutan is a totally unique individual. They don't sub in for one another. The extent of the reality of the show is that when Oyoy died in episode 3, he really died. Lone and her staff had raised him from his infancy, and his death was a tragic loss. Here are some pictures of him when he was a baby: http://redapes.org/orangutan-island/tribute-to-oyoy/

Anyway, sorry for being so wordy! I would love for you and your readers to visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn more about orangutans-- and maybe even adopt an orphan! :-)

Enjoy the final episodes of the season... and stick around for season 2....

Best, Rich

Richard Zimmerman
Director, Orangutan Outreach
Reach out and save the orangutans!

February 07 2008 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love "It's Me or the Dog" because I don't get the National Geographic Channel and have to wait for the "Dog Whisperer" to come out on DVD. One of my other Animal Planet favorites is "The Most Extreme". You know, the one with the countdown and green lightning font.

February 06 2008 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I couldn't watch Meerkat Manor for a while after Flower died. Man that made me sad.

February 06 2008 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh no I forgot to watch the Puppy Bowl!

February 06 2008 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cheryl Smith

I LOVE the "Growing Up" series....Growing Up Zebra, Growing Up Camel, Growing up Leopard, Growing up Polar Bear and all the rest. I wish that they would put them all out on DVD. I also enjoyed "The Little Zoo that Could" about the zoo that kept getting destroyed by hurricanes. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Animal Planet too!

February 06 2008 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Being a new dog owner, I learned quite a bit about training the little feces-machine by watching It's Me or the Dog.
Plus that British chick who hosts it is hot. Much hotter than a meerkat.

February 06 2008 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kevjohn's comment
Jackie Schnoop

True that, KevJohn -- meerkats aren't all that sexy, except to other meerkats, I presume.

February 06 2008 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carl Tapp


February 06 2008 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would absolutely LOVE to see Animal Planet (or any other network) air the classic Wild Kingdom episodes with Marlin Perkins and his trusty aide, Jim. My wife and I enjoy a lot of the AP shows with our daughters and it would be wonderful to be able to introduce them to what was, for us, the only regular animal-themed documentary series "way back when". Besides, I'd just like to see Marlin speak calmly while Jim wrestles with something wild just one more time!

February 06 2008 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised you didn't mention Animal Planet's rebranding:


February 06 2008 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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