"THE GRIZZLIES," Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (50); 8 p.m. (28)(15)(24)--There are few sure bets in TV, but "National Geographic Specials" are surely one of them. From Jerusalem to whales, they are state-of-the-art in creating gorgeous programs that place societies and creatures in proper context.
North America's magnificent, charming, ferocious--and endangered--grizzlies co-star with humankind in this hour, which above else shows the braided destinies of man and bear.
Narrated by Peter Coyote and written and produced by Theodore Thomas, "The Grizzlies" ranges from Yellowstone Park to Alaska in showing these giant and fascinating animals as part of nature's eternal conflict with man. So far, man seems to be winning, that is if destruction can be equated with victory.
We meet Bart, a movie-star grizzly; a physician and former bear hater who has treated victims of bear attacks, but who now realizes that grizzlies attack humans only when provoked; scientists engaged in collar-tracking studies; and the many grizzlies that feast on salmon at the falls of the McNeil River in Alaska, where they are watched and photographed by special tours led by fish and game authorities.
What this program lacks, though, is the animal's-eye-view.
Apparently, no one has spent extended time near grizzlies in their shrinking natural habitats as the late Dian Fossey did with gorillas, for example, and Jane Goodall did with chimps and wild dogs.
What we see too few of here, hence, are grizzlies just being grizzlies, in relation to their natural environment. Significantly, "The Grizzlies" mostly shows bears in relation to and reacting to man, hunter of animals and usurper of nature. A distressing indicator of the way things are.