Monday, February 27, 2012

Television and Movies About Animals: Things I Avoid

Last week at the dinner table, I had suggested to some of my family members that they might want to subscribe to some cable programs as the History Channel, National Geographic, and The Animal Planet.

It was in almost family unison, that they did not want those channels because they were all about animals.  

Well, they are not totally correct that these networks are all about animals.  But they are somewhat correct in noting animal stories have finally invaded the History ChannelThe History Channel’s Swamp People is about toothless gator hunters Junior Edwards and Troy Landry who catch and eat gators, crickets, crawl dads, or whatever animal goodies swamp people enjoy munching on.

Even when I tried to persuade them to take a second look even at The Animal Planet network, my sister noted her dislike for animal stories began back in the 1960s with Sunday night’s The Wonderful World of Disney.  

She was quite correct that when Uncle Walt Disney turned to airing stories about animals, all of us left the room or asked permission to change the television. (To this day, I remember my shock when I witnessed on his television show my first animal killing an animal.  The pictures were of a catfish sucking in a poor duckling for its dinner.) 

An animal program  that I quickly learned to dislike was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, which premiered on January 6, 1963.  

The shows host, Marlin Perkins who was way too weird looking dressed in his khakis, took viewers to the far corners of the world and studied wild animals in their natural habitats.  

How I disliked that show and was happy when it was over so we could catch some good television.

Back in the 1960s, I grew up watching the regular animal dramatic television shows.  There was Timmy on Lassie, Joey Newton on Fury, Ken McLaughlin on My Friend Flicka, Rusty on Rin Tin Tin, and my personal all time favorite was Porter Rick and his sons Sandy and Bud on Flipper. Not only did the kids on the shows have the most intelligent animals and best adventures in the world; their parents or adults in their lives were far cooler than my parents ever were. 

Then some where are along the way, my love for animal movies snapped and today I cannot watch any shows which portray animals with some semblance of human emotion. 

Other than a few movies about animals as Tom Hank’s Turner and Hootch and the comedy Best in Show, I avoid most animal movies and say with some pride that I have not viewed Marley and Me, and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.

The late animal television expert Crocodile Hunter Stephen Irwin confirmed my dislike for animal show programming as I think many of his animal adventures were staged events.  

And between Irwin and the realization that The Animal Planet producers liked to devote their energies to showing those animals that were at the top of the food chain as sharks, lions, tigers, wolves, and of course some good snapping gators or crocs, I just lost interest in their programming.

Like a good football game, the producers of The Animal Planet cater to viewers who enjoy watching the hunting of prey in fast motion, slow motion, and replay mode.  

The Academy Awards were on television last night and I was channel surfing.   I decided to give The Animal Planet another try.

Animal Planet’s segment was about rattlesnake handlers who take their snake handling stunts to peanut festivals.   And one of the snake handlers was almost likely a cousin of one of the History Channel’s swamp people.  

This not too bright hillbillie crawled into a sleeping bag with 20 some rattlers and got bit.  Admittedly, and sorry to say, he deserved to be bitten.  Secondly, who in their right minds who would go watch and pay for the stunt.

Well, fortunately and sincerely, the fool did not die. 

But after viewing the show, I did understand why The Animal Planet has been added to my list of cable networks that I just don’t care to watch any longer and another reason I passionately dislike animal shows!

One additional comment:
The other day as I was working at my desk, I viewed out the window and saw  red tailed hawk sitting in our apple tree.   I knew what the hawk was doing and I watched with great anticipation its next move.

Then with speed, the hawk swooped down and plucked up a mouse from the ground.  Now that was exciting viewing and I wish I had my camera to down load to You Tube for your viewing!

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