With shows like Crikey! It’s the Irwins and Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet, the Animal Planet network continues to show that their animal-centric programming is what they do best. Although the network has enjoyed many successes over the years, some of its reality shows have come and gone without much fanfare.
Whether it’s celebrity series like Confront Tyson or competitions like Who has the dog? not all Animal Planet shows were a smash hit. Even though many shows missed the mark, only a few are worth picking up.
K-9 to 5 (1999–2002)
Exotic animals are often among the most exciting topics on Animal Planet, but man’s best friend has also been featured heavily on the network. K-9 to 5 was a documentary reality TV show that featured dogs from around the world working in specialized professions.
While most notable for its cute factor, the show was also very educational when it comes to canines in the workplace. The wide variety of specializations dogs can work in was fascinating, and the series was done with a snappy, fast-paced style that kept the show entertaining and fresh.
The Little Zoo That Could (2006)
With some of the best animal shows on Disney+ featuring various zoos around the world, Animal Planet’s The little zoo that could was way ahead of the trend. The series follows workers at the Alabama Gulf Coast zoo as they attempt to rebuild after being partially destroyed by a series of violent hurricanes.
Considerably more plot-driven than most reality shows of its genre, The little zoo that could captured the heart and soul of the average zoo worker in the face of tragedy. Animal Planet’s best shows create a synthesis between human interest and animal facts, and the story of Alabama’s Gulf Coast Zoo fits that bill perfectly.
Miami Animal Police (2004)
The finale of a series of programs dealing with the subject, Miami Animal Police jumped on the law enforcement reality TV bandwagon in a way only Animal Planet could. The series follows officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Animal Services Unit as they respond to animal emergencies.
South Florida is home to a slew of exaggerated wildlife, and the importation of other exotic animals has made it even more dangerous. While the series lacked variety, it was always interesting to watch the officers respond to animal issues, and they were often quite odd.
Must Love Cats (2011–12)
Must like cats was perhaps one of the most unique reality TV shows of all time, and no other show has ever aped its format. The series follows John Fulton as he travels the United States singing songs about cats and visiting the country’s most famous felines.
From the most mundane house cat to the heights of YouTube stardom, Fulton truly has an affinity for felines. Although it only lasted two short seasons, the series was at the forefront of feline fandom. With the rise of cute cats on apps like TikTok, it seems Fulton’s show was only a few years ahead.
While animals are usually the bread and butter of Animal Planet, sometimes a topic adjacent to an animal can be just as effective for them. tanked follows the employees of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing as they manufacture and design a series of extravagant aquariums for their discerning customers.
Many shows about aquariums and lavish fish habitats have been made in the past, but tanked was a detailed look at how these ideas become reality. Although it lacks the animals that most people log onto the net to see, the host of quirky characters, along with their amazing creations, were still worth watching.
Treehouse Masters (2013–2018)
Treehouse Masters had almost nothing to do with animals, but it was the perfect sight for nature lovers and those who love lavish home designs. The show centers around Pete Nelson, an architect who specializes in making beautiful and functional treehouses.
Easily bingable and relaxing, Treehouse Masters was a low-stakes reality show that was perfect for vegetating on the couch. Along with the incredible treehouses, guest celebrities added another layer of significance to the show, and his designs proved that Nelson lived up to the show’s name.
Who gets the dog? (2005)
Competitive reality TV shows come in all shapes and sizes, but few were as weird as Who gets the dog? Instead of competing for money or prizes, the show saw three couples compete to see who would bring home a rescued dog.
With animal behaviorists ready, the show analyzed the dog’s body language to determine which family got along best with the animal. While this was an interesting concept for a show, it was a rather odd way to get the message across about shelter pets, and there was an unethical nature to the idea of treating animals as a prize to be won.
Beverly Hills Vet (2003)
Coming to the primordial early days of over-the-top reality TV shows, Beverly Hills Vet saw a change in direction for the educational entertainment channel. The show chronicles the daily life of a Beverly Hills, California veterinarian who is tasked with caring for the wealthy neighborhood’s most pampered pets.
From the start, it was very clear that the focus of the show was less on the animals and more on their owners. The characters were all highly exaggerated and there was a certain falseness to the program that viewers had never seen before on Animal Planet. It only lasted one season, and it seems that style of reality TV wasn’t what fans were looking for.
Fatal Attractions (2010–13)
Although documentaries like tiger king recently captured the strange and dangerous world of exotic pet ownership, Animal Planet’s Fatal Attractions bring the subject to the fore years before. The series focuses on people who own dangerous animals as pets and the very violent consequences that can follow.
There’s a fair amount of shock value to be had from the series, but it still serves Animal Planet’s mission to help animals. The episodes can be seen as cautionary tales, and the series makes it very clear that owning exotic animals is nothing to glorify. Even if he were to use horror to get his point across, Fatal Attractions was quite efficient in his messaging.
Take Tyson (2011)
Never one to shy away from controversy, former boxing champ Mike Tyson stirred up a different kind of issue when he starred on his own reality show Animal Planet. Confront Tyson saw the former king of the ring enter the world of pigeon racing.
Problematic from the start, fans were appalled to see animals being used for sport on a network dedicated to treating them safely. Tyson’s controversial past aside, the whole concept was on shaky ground, and Animal Planet devotees didn’t want to see the animals put in harm’s way for anyone’s entertainment.
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