'Wild America' returns for another superb season
Now that the commercial networks have just about completed their season premieres, PBS is taking its turn with a whole series of introductory shows. As with most public broadcasting programming, there is a basic respect for the intelligence of the viewer, so don't look to PBS for ''mindless entertainment.''
Two totally dissimilar series, one returning and the other debuting, deserve special attention: Wild America (Thursdays, 8:30-9 p.m., check local listings) and International Edition (Fridays, 9:30-10 p.m., check local listings).
The second season of ''Wild America'' starts with an entertaining yet educational believe-it-or-not kind of wildlife show: ''Animal Oddities.'' Host-narrator-cinematographer Marty Stouffer seems to be fascinated by the natural idiosyncrasies that enable strange species to evolve and flourish.
A charmingly relaxed fellow, he leans back comfortably and runs through the list from dinosaurs to musk oxen, illustrating with superb film when possible and, in the case of prehistoric creatures, utilizing models and animation.
The show is definitely for the whole family. The youngsters, especially, will be fascinated by Marty's tall-but-true tales about the rare white moose, the armadillo, and the sharp-tailed sage grouse, among others.
Future shows will concentrate on the fastest animals, the nighttime creatures , the antlered kingdom, and even backyard wildlife. If ''Wild America'' is a bit more Disneyish than Attenborough-esque, it is certainly Disney at his best in the area of wildlife films. This is a Thursday night show to put on your viewing calendar - and even more important, on your youngster's calendar.
International Edition (Fridays, 9:30-10 p.m.), on the other hand, is strictly for adults, or at least persons who have serious reservations about the distorted coverage of international affairs Americans too often get in their newspapers and on television. The show wants to see America as foreign audiences see America. It wants viewers to experience the view from the other side of the bridge.
Produced by Maryland Public Television and conducted by Ford Rowan, ''International Edition'' plans to use reports filed by foreign television TV and print journalists stationed in the United States, reports that shape the way the rest of the world sees us.
In the initial show, which is presented in a format not very different from ''Washington Week in Review,'' Rowan showed a West German TV report on US Green Berets training guerrilla troops in Honduras; a reporter for the Saudi Arabian Gazette commenting mostly about Lebanon; a Canadian TV report on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington; and a radio Moscow report on the Korean airliner disaster (the US was to blame, of course).
The group seemed to agree that, under President Reagan, the US is returning to ''gunboat diplomacy,'' although a fear that we might be returning to isolationist attitudes was also paradoxically expressed. It is evident that foreign interpretation of American attitudes can be just as distorted as our own interpretation. That may even be one of the major lessons to be learned from the show.
''International Edition'' promises to become as essential a tool for an understanding of America's role in the world as PBS's ''Washington Week in Review'' has already become.