Who doesn’t love television shows with live animals? Animal characters make great additions to situation comedies and dramatic shows, and sometimes the animals are the stars of the shows. Here are 10 all-time great television shows with live animals.
- Lassie. After having been made a star in movies, Lassie, a rough-coated collie, came to television in 1954, and stayed there until 1973. In both film and television, Lassie was beloved by children and adults alike, and has become an iconic figure in US culture.
- Fury. What more could one ask of a television show in the late 1950s? A beautiful black horse, an orphaned child, and lots of wide open spaces of the American West. Fury ran from 1955 to 1960, and was an after school standard for several years in syndication.
- Gunsmoke. The longest running dramatic television show in US history. In Gunsmoke, the animals weren’t the focus of the show, but horses and cattle were a constant presence in this wild-west television show. Who can’t picture the larger than life Marshall Dillon (James Arness) leaning forward on his horse with his right hand on the six-gun at his hip?
- Mr. Ed. A smart-alec, talking horse with a lovably incompetent owner was the basis for this situation comedy. From 1961 to 1966 Mr. Ed cracked us up with quips and antics that made fun of us humans and our foibles.
- Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. If this list was ordered by popularity instead of starting date, Wild Kingdom would be at the top. Hosted first by Marlin Perkins, then by long time assistant Jim Fowler, WK ran from 1963 to 1988, and is credited with introducing several generations to a love of wild animals around the world.
- 6. Flipper. From 1964 to 1967, set in the beautiful landscape and waters of the South Florida coast, we watched a single parent with two teenage sons and a courageous bottlenose dolphin deal with criminals and natural dangers. What better setting for light drama and beautiful scenery, including lots of folks in swim suits?
- Daktari. Set in Africa and running from 1966 to 1969, Daktari featured a veterinarian named Marsh Tracy who spent much of his time saving wild animals from poachers and unenlightened local government officials. Though people had most of the dialogue lines, the real stars were the wild animals and habitat of Africa. Two favorite longtime characters on the show were Clarence, a cross-eyed lion, and a chimpanzee named Judy.
- Gentle Ben. Take a giant but gentle black bear named Ben, make his best friend the young son of a park ranger in the Florida Everglades, stir in lots of adventure, and you have Gentle Ben. From 1967 to 1969 we watched actor Dennis Weaver scoot around the Everglades on an airboat, trying to find and save his character’s son Mark, only to be upstaged by Ben scaring the bad guys into giving up at the end of virtually every episode.
- Lancelot Link. This was a Saturday morning spoof of spy-shows, starring an entire cast of chimpanzees. Inspired by the tv show Get Smart, it featured A.P.E.(Agency for Prevention of Evil) versus C.H.U.M.P. (Criminal Headquarters for Underworld Master Plan) in an ongoing battle. The dialogue and acting weren’t exactly scintillating, but the costumes and one-liners were worth the watch.
- Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. This was the first television animal show to focus exclusively on the animals and landscapes of North America. Its original run was from 1982 to 1994, but its unflinching portrayal of nature’s beauty and harsh survival conditions in America’s wilderness have kept in virtual continual syndication ever since.
There are many more, of course, since we now have a channel entirely devoted to animals, but these 10 set the stage for our love of live animals in television shows. Don’t be surprised if you stumble over one or more of them as you surf around the cable channels late at night.Taken From Cable TV Providers