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Wildlife programs make TV stars of flora and fauna

By Arthur Unger / March 11, 1988



New York

Grizzly & Man: Uneasy Truce SuperStation TBS/cable, tonight, 10:05-11:05 p.m.; repeated March 21, 26, and 31, check local listings. Narrator: Robert Redford. Producers: Franz Camenzind and David Clark. Executive producer: Christopher N. Palmer. Great Moments From Nature PBS, Sunday, 7-9 p.m., check local listings. Host/executive editor: George Page, Producer/director: Fred Kaufman.

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While commercial television keeps trying new situation comedies to boost its sinking ratings, the Public Broadcasting Service and cable's SuperStation TBS (the new designation for Ted Turner's WTBS) roll merrily along with the most popular aspects of their schedules: wildlife programming. This weekend, both are presenting fascinating shows that feature some of TV's greatest stars: the flora and fauna that inhabit the earth.

``Grizzly & Man'' is a ``World of Audubon Special'' tracking the great grizzly from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the coastline of Alaska. As man moved into their natural habitat, the grizzlies were forced to move out. Now there are probably no more than 900 in all of the lower United States, while Alaska still has about 30,000. But even there, civilization may be threatening this indomitable creature.

This Audubon special tries to cover a wide range of grizzly activities. Perhaps it tries to do a bit too much, as it hops around attempting to clock the habits of National Park tourists and rangers as well as foraging bears. There is fine footage of 1,000-pound grizzlies playing, scavenging, fishing, scratching their backs on trees, and sometimes attacking men.

Most of the footage is fun to watch, but by trying to cover so much ground, the film takes on a disjointed air and becomes merely a series of interesting clips, held together loosely with Robert Redford's narration, which expresses a guarded degree of optimism for the future of the grizzly.

The ``Nature'' series has proved to be the greatest audience grabber on the PBS schedule. Now, to celebrate the first 100 programs in its six years on the air (and incidentally to help in local fund-raising campaigns), ``Nature'' is presenting a two-hour retrospective of its own high points.

``Great Moments From Nature'' features unforgettable excerpts from 30 or so of its most delightful programs.

There are segments about predators and prey, unique ecosystems, animals and their young, and, of course, courtship rituals. Like the series as a whole, this special is not merely cute and charming; it is also informative.

``Nature'' and now ``Great Moments From Nature'' constitute television's quintessential family programming.