It was a 30-minute nature series on PBS that aired for 11 years in the 1980s and 90s. As a nature lover, I used to love watching that show, but I had completely forgotten about it until my husband found the DVD set of the first six seasons at Target for under $30. He told me he used to love the show too.
We bought it for our three-year-old. I know most children love animals, but our son is obsessed with them. Lately when we go to play dates, my son has been digging out any animals he can find at his friends’ houses and coveting them. Cars and trucks are becoming lackluster.
My son loves to watch any show about animals, and he often tells me interesting facts about certain animals, such as what they like to eat. We gave him the DVD set for Christmas, but back then, he only liked the shows in which Marty talked about many different animals. Most episodes focus on one kind of animal, and they were too slow for him.
I have to admit, when we first watched the show on DVD again, I had to chuckle at how old the show looked. We like many of today’s dramas and documentaries, which, as you know, are fast-paced with high quality cinema photography.
Wild America is a far cry from Discovery’s Planet Earth. Marty Stouffer, also, though very likeable, is rather stiff, and I don’t think he’d fare well in today’s market for T.V. spokespeople.
In the last few weeks, my son has started watching it again, and it’s quickly become his first choice when he gets to watch a show. Sometimes I watch the show with him, and I’ve gotten used to the slow-pace, and I appreciate it. My husband commented the other night that it’s the first show he’s watched in a long time that relaxes him.
So my son is learning about all kinds of animals, and Marty Stouffer’s unhurried commentary seems to be the perfect pace for a three-year-old. While I prefer the episodes about the bears, birds, and other furry creatures, my son likes the snakes and other reptiles. My husband isn’t particular. It’s the first show we’ve found that the whole family enjoys watching together.
Like all nature shows, there is some violence, but I would rather my son learn about life in the wild than watch T.V. depicting the cutthroat world of humans. Unfortunately, I have also found out that there was some controversy over Marty Stouffer and his show. According to E: The Environmental Magazine (May – June 1997), there were claims that he staged some of the scenes in his show, which is obvious if you watch it, but in some cases he may have gone too far. A PBS internal investigation found fault with 15 out of 110 episodes.
Marty also pleaded guilty in 1993 to building a hunting camp near an elk migration path within a national forest and later he was fined $300,000 for having created a trail to the site on the property of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
I’m still grateful for the Wild America series. It’s educational, and it literally brought America’s wilderness into American homes. I also appreciate Marty’s balanced commentary on environmental issues, and I know the show will spearhead many topics of learning for my boys.
If you were a fan of the show or are interested in seeing a few episodes, you might want to take a look at the Wild America website at www.wildamerica.com. And as Marty would say, “Until next time, enjoy our wild America!”
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.