Saturday, August 11, 2012

Classic TV: Wild Kingdom (1963)

Before NBC began airing a Sunday night newscast ahead of its primetime programming, the network filled that gap between local news and The Wonderful World of Disney with Wild Kingdom, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha, at the time one of the most recognized life insurance companies. However, like Hee Haw & The Lawrence Welk Show, Wild Kingdom was cancelled in 1971, only to continue on in syndication for another 17 seasons until the program finally ended in 1988.

Producer Don Meier and series host Marlin Perkins, director of the St. Louis Zoo, had previously worked together on the syndicated Zoo Parade, and Kingdom came about as a result of meetings that Perkins had with representatives from Mutual of Omaha. 14 years after the series ended, it was revived and aired on Animal Planet, though I am not certain if the revival has continued. Perkins was forced to retire due to health reasons after the 1984-5 season, and long time aide Jim Fowler took over as series host for the final three seasons of the original run.

SupremeTeam68 uploaded the open & close.

Wild Kingdom was one of the last shows to do a direct segue into commercials, with Perkins using analogies linking a mother lion protecting her cubs to Mutual of Omaha protecting their clients' life insurance interests. In today's glut of "reality" television shows, I'd imagine the revival is out of production because it was lost in the shuffle. I never saw the revival, so the rating is based on the original series, which was, in fact, appointment viewing at home back in the day.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I do remember watching this show!

It was fascinating to learn so much about the world of sild animals long before Animal Planet came along.

Marlin Perkins always reminded me of a grandfatherly figure guiding us through the animal kingdom.

hobbyfan said...

Or an uncle who had the keys to the local zoo.

The bits he did with WK the chimp were always a highlight that got some laughs at home. It's odd, though, that Jim Fowler and/or Stan Brock would end up doing the talk shows to promote the show more often than Perkins did.