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Series / Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

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Jim Fowler (left), Marlin Perkins and friend.

This legendary nature documentary series is indelibly linked with the various Sunday night Walt Disney programs on NBC (which it usually preceded) in the minds of those who grew up during the 1960s and '70s. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom aired for 25 years, on NBC from 1963–71 and then in First-Run Syndication until 1988. Its hosts were Marlin Perkins, who served as director of the St. Louis Zoo for a substantial part of the show's run, and the buff Jim Fowler. In the early years of the show both Perkins and Fowler would go out into the field and shoot the episodes; as Perkins got older (and more white-haired), he remained in the studio while Fowler did the bulk of the field work.

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

Along with Hallmark Hall of Fame, this was one of the last big post-'50s shows to be sponsored by a single corporation, in this case the eponymous insurance firm.

There have been several revivals. The first, hosted by Alec Baldwin, aired on cable's Animal Planet network from 2002–11. The second was a 2013–18 YouTube web series hosted by Stephenie Arne. The third revival, hosted by Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Granta, started airing Saturday mornings on NBC in 2023.

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 particularly 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 flee the scene—likely with soiled clothing—as fast as possible, the angry elephant in full-speed pursuit (and very nearly catching them).