Animal Planet Has Turned Into VH1


When I turned on my DirecTV receiver for the very first time in ’97, one of my favorite channels was The Animal Planet. This channel took me back to my childhood and the days of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and its host, Marlin Perkins. Mr. Perkins’ show aired weekly and gave an up-close and personal look at animals. A lot of those close looks came via camera zoom which was completely understandable! He was the original Steve Irwin to my generation. His show not only taught you lessons on different animals, but he also would catch many of them to give you a better look. He did so while rarely putting himself or his assistants in danger.

Marlin Perkins

Fast-forward to 2011 and like everything else in the world, animal shows have gone extreme. They don’t just teach about animals any more, they take the most dangerous, yet exciting approach to catching these animals. “Rattlesnake Republic,” “Swamp Wars,” “Dragon Catcher” to name a few. Okay, I made the last one up, but trust me, if dragons existed, some dude in a t-shirt, Umbro shorts and Crocs would catch one bare-handed.

These shows feature people who hunt dangerous animals for a living. Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, but there’s one thing to keep in mind: these people rarely use any special equipment to protect themselves from these animals! The late Steve Irwin used to run through the wilderness in khaki shorts looking for poisonous snakes. During Shark Week, some fool decided to take a swim (with no cage) with tiger sharks… at night. As if doing it during the day wasn’t dangerous enough! And every 15 minutes, I see a commercial of some idiots sticking their hand into underwater logs and caves trying to pull out giant catfish.

“What do you do if you feel a diamond-shaped head and fangs?”

When will it stop? When someone gets eaten? If so, will they air it? I’m all for learning about animals and getting a closer look, but there’s a reason they’re called “wild animals:” they’re unpredictable and potentially dangerous. So, when some 200 lb. catfish drowns one of those hand fishers or some moose, who has his mating session interrupted, decides to kick some trespasser to sleep, then don’t say no one told you so.

Memo to extreme animal catchers: the next time you see a cheetah on the Serengeti and decide that you want a closer look, just stop and ask yourself, “What would Marlin Perkins do?”

He’d break out the zoom lens on his camera, that’s what he’d do.

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