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Series / Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

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Jim Fowler, Marlin Perkins and friend.

This legendary nature documentary series is indelibly linked with the various Sunday night Walt Disney programs on NBC in the minds of those who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom ran for 25 years, between 1963 and 1988. Its hosts were Marlin Perkins (who served during a substantial period of the series run as director of the St. Louis Zoo) and buff Jim Fowler. In the early years of the series, Perkins and Fowler went out into the field to tape episodes.

As Perkins got older and more white-haired, he'd remain in the studio while Fowler did the field work. The series was a favorite of comedians and satirists because of its tendency for Perkins to stand off to the side and describe the action (true even when Perkins would go out in the field, but more pronounced as he got older and more studio-bound), while Fowler did the dirty work of actually interacting with the wild beasts featured by the show (and in the process risking life and limb).

It was one of the last big shows to be sponsored by one corporation, in the style of "The Colgate Comedy Hour" or "Texaco Star Theatre" (both of which went off the air in the 1950s).

Wild Kingdom was revived in 2002 on cable's Animal Planet network, hosted by Alec Baldwin.

Provides Examples of:

  • Enforced Plug: Perkins never fails to weave in plugs for the Mutual of Omaha insurance company.
  • Great White Hunter: Perkins and Fowler. Though they didn't actually kill any of the beasts, they still went out into exotic settings and tracked and interacted with wild animals.
  • Long Runner
  • Nature Documentary
  • Net Gun: Used many times by Perkins or Fowler to capture animals in order to fit radio collars on them, take blood samples, or transport them to new locations.
  • Oh, Crap!: Multiple times as Perkins and/or his assistants fled from angry animals. One memorable example came in an episode documenting the migration of African elephants, wherein a tranquilized elephant suddenly awoke, (possibly) realized what was happening and ran after the zoologists, forcing them into their Land Cruiser and to likely with soiled clothes flee as fast as possible, the angry elephant in full-speed pursuit (and very nearly catching them).