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Top 10 TV Series About Wild Animals: Shows That Walked on the Wild Side

Anne Gould Northgraves - March 29, 2010




National Geographic unleashes its newest channel — the all-animals-all-the-time Nat Geo WILD on Monday, March 29, 2010 as a replacement for the Fox Reality Channel. With this new cable network dedicated to wildlife, TV Tango captured the fictional animal shows that once ran across our TV screens. Here's our list of the 10 best specimens.




Series: Flipper


First Sighting: September 19, 1964 at 7:30pm on NBC

Life Span: 3 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: This mild-mannered bottlenose dolphin swam his way into the hearts of a generation of children with his joyous laugh, seafaring adventures, and ability to avoid the tuna can. Plus, that infectious theme song just dove into your subconscious and still surfaces forty-plus years later -- "They called him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning..."

Series: Life Is Wild


First Sighting: October 7, 2007 at 8pm on The CW

Life Span: 4 months


Wildlife or Mildlife: Life certainly was "Wild" for the Clarke family, who relocated with their veterinarian father from the urban jungle of New York to the floral jungle of Africa. Unfortunately, viewers didn't flock to the show, and it went extinct after thirteen episodes.

Series: Daktari


First Sighting: January 11, 1966 at 7:30pm on CBS

Life Span: 4 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: In the vast jungle of television programs, this wild African-set series was the only place to sight Clarence the cross-eyed lion and Judy the chimp. These inter-species pals were the real stars of the series and they dethroned Dr. Marsh Tracy as the show's alpha male.

Series: Born Free


First Sighting: September 9, 1974 at 8pm on NBC

Life Span: 3 months


Wildlife or Mildlife: Joy and George Adamson raised orphaned lion cubs in the wild African Sahara. Since the series was based on the Oscar-nominated film of the same name, it should have been king of the TV jungle. Instead, the pride left this weakling series behind to be devoured by TV network jackals.

Series: A Peaceable Kingdom


First Sighting: September 20, 1989 at 8pm on CBS

Life Span: 2 months


Wildlife or Mildlife: Set in the mild Los Angeles County Zoo rather than the great outdoors, zoo director Rebecca Cafferty, her herd of doctors and employees, and her pride of three kids had tales that intertwined like mating boas. If this series was one of Rebecca's animal patients, she would have put it out of its misery -- just like CBS did.

Series: The Wild Thornberrys


First Sighting: September 1, 1998 at 8pm on Nickelodeon

Life Span: 5 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: Not only wildlife, but a wild life, too. Eliza traveled the world in a souped-up RV with her nature-show filming parents, a Tasmanian-devil adopted brother, and a refined chimp named Darwin. Eliza even had the Dr. Dolittle gift of animal gab -- and she was polite too -- addressing a lion with the line, "It is a great honor to meet such a magnificent lion as yourself, sir."

Series: Gentle Ben


First Sighting: September 10, 1967 at 7:30pm on CBS

Life Span: 2 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: Teaching kids everywhere the (possibly misleading) lesson that bears can be as sweet as the honey they crave, the "Gentle" giant Ben followed his young owner everywhere through the Florida everglades. It's only fitting that the young actor, Clint Howard, was later the best friend of a bear once again -- he voiced Winnie the Pooh's friend, Roo, in the '70s.

Series: Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp


First Sighting: September 12, 1970 at 9am on ABC

Life Span: 2 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: With a wild concept for a mild Saturday-morning timeslot, this series featured Lancelot Link, a talking chimp as a secret agent, and his partner Marta Hairi. After this series was tranquilized, Saturday mornings were never the simian again.

Series: Beastmaster


First Sighting: Early October 1999 in Syndication (various times and networks across the country)

Life Span: 3 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: A continuation of the wild "BeastMaster" movies with Daniel Goddard taking the role of the tanned-and-toned Dar who can telepathically communicate with animals. Even though Goddard had definite animal magnetism, one critic was not impressed, saying he "is about as charismatic as a Stairmaster" instead of a BeastMaster.

Series: The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams


First Sighting: March 2, 1977 at 8pm on NBC

Life Span: 2 years


Wildlife or Mildlife: In the 1850s, wrongfully-convicted James "Grizzly" Adams finds the trials of the forest much more forgiving than the predators of civilization -- and bounty hunters. Viewers were curious whether he was really innocent, but they were really tracking which was wilder -- Grizzly's pet bear Ben or his mountain-man beard.

And here's a bonus memorable moment about wildlife on TV.

Series: 24


First Sighting: February 4, 2003 at 9:35pm on FOX

Life Span: One episode


Wildlife or Mildlife: The wild storyline in which 24 jumped the cougar. Kim wanders the wilderness of Los Angeles, sees a cougar, runs away and gets caught in an animal trap. Actress Elisha Cuthbert wasn't so lucky since she joined the list of Actors Mauled by Lions and was sent to the hospital for a tetanus shot, but no stitches.

Anne Gould Northgraves is a student at Ithaca College, majoring in screenwriting with a minor in learning to live with no money. Her passions include "Lost," the Red Sox, and amassing knowledge of everything about every film and television show.