Let’s Remember is an opportunity for those who watched relatively recent short-lived TV shows, as well as those who didn’t, to share their thoughts and memories, to help ensure that these shows aren’t forgotten. This month’s column examines Life Is Wild (The CW, 2007-2008).
Title: Life Is Wild
Network: The CW
Cast: D.W. Moffett as Danny Clarke; Leah Pipes as Katie Clarke; Stephanie Niznick as Jo Weller-Clarke; Andrew St. John as Jesse Weller; Calvin Goldspink as Oliver Banks; Atandwa Kani as Tumelo; David Butler as Art; K’Sun Ray as Chase Clark; Mary Mouser as Mia Weller; Tiffany Mulheron as Emily Banks
Air dates: October 7th, 2007 – February 3rd, 2008
Time slot: Sundays at 8PM ET
A lengthy press release can be found at CBS Press Express. Here’s an excerpt:
Katie Clarke (Leah Pipes, “Clubhouse”) may never forgive her veterinarian father, Danny (D.W. Moffett, “For Your Love”) for dragging their entire blended family out of New York City to spend a year living in a broken-down lodge called The Blue Antelope on a game reserve deep inside South Africa. In fact, the one area of agreement among Katie, her 11-year-old brother Chase (K’sun Ray, “Smith”), their rebellious teenage step-brother Jesse (Andrew St. John, “General Hospital”) and 7-year-old step-sister Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser, “Eloise”), is that Danny has lost his mind.
For Danny and his second wife, Jo (Stephanie Niznik, “Everwood”), however, the reasons for the move are very clear. Once they married and brought their children together under one roof, it soon became obvious that the kids had little in common and the family was drifting apart. In New York, Katie was a good student with close friends and a serious boyfriend. Mature beyond her years, Katie took on even more adult responsibilities when her mother died, helping her younger brother Chase deal with the loss. Jo’s children had to deal with their parents’ divorce after their father went to prison for a white-collar crime. Jesse reacted by cutting school, rebelling against every rule and resenting his mother’s remarriage, while little Mia comforted herself with her obsession with the New York Mets.
Once the family arrives in South Africa, Danny realizes his motivations go beyond his desire to keep his troubled family together while making a difference in the lives of the people and animals of this amazing place. His deceased first wife Claire grew up at The Blue Antelope, and the lodge is still home to her reclusive father Art (David Butler). The Blue Antelope was once a thriving safari business, but after the loss of his daughter, Art let the lodge slip into disrepair. Now that Danny has arrived with Art’s grandchildren and a new family, Art may finally find a reason to get his life back on track.
While they are definitely strangers in a strange land with a lot to learn about their new home, Katie, Jesse and the rest of the family are nevertheless beginning to love the breathtaking vistas of the bush country, the wild animals and the vibrant culture enveloping them. A year in this strange but beautiful place might not be so bad after all.
–Life Is Wild is based on a British series called Wild At Heart that aired on ITV from January 2006 to December 2012.
-An unaired pilot episode exists for Life Is Wild, with a slightly different cast. Brett Cullen originally played Danny Clarke while Judith Hoag originally played Jo Weller-Clarke. A review of the original pilot episode can be found at the futon critic. The Paley Center for Media has a copy of the unaired pilot in its collection.
-After cancelling Life Is Wild, The CW initially replaced it with two repeat episodes of Everybody Hates Chris. Later, new episodes of Everybody Hates Chris and Aliens in America aired in place of Life Is Wild.
TV Guide’s Take
Regrettably, my copy of the 2007 Fall Preview issue of TV Guide has gone missing. So, if TV Guide had an opinion about Life Is Wild, I don’t know what it was.
Variety – Brian Lowry (10/4/2007)
The Los Angeles Times – Robert Lloyd (10/5/2007)
The New York Times – Ginia Bellafante (10/6/2007)
The Boston Globe – Matthew Gilbert (10/6/2007)
The A.V. Club – Noel Murray (10/7/2007)
I may be wrong but I believe Life Is Wild initially featured a title card in lieu of a traditional opening credits sequence. After a handful of episodes, the the series added the following (brief) opening credits :
“This fall, The CW presents the story of a family’s incredible journey to rediscover themselves.” That’s how The CW’s 2007 Fall Preview Special ended its segment on Life Is Wild. I’m almost positive I watched every episode of Life Is Wild yet I can’t remember a single thing about the show. I think I was intrigued by the fact it was filmed on location in South Africa. Or maybe I just had nothing better to do on Sunday evenings in 2007.
If I recall correctly, the series suffered the same fate that so many other “family friendly” TV shows did: the split focus on the adults and the kids meant none of the characters had time to develop. The large cast didn’t help. Nor did the stereotypical teenage angst.
Considering how limited The CW’s schedule is these days–consisting primarily of superhero dramas–it’s easy to forget how the network tried during its early years to appeal to all viewers, not just fans of comic books and superheroes. During its first few seasons, The CW offered family dramas, teen dramas, sitcoms, reality shows, wrestling. And, yes, some sci-fi/action/superhero dramas.
Looking back now, nearly a decade after Life Is Wild debuted, it’s obvious the show never had a chance. 7th Heaven meets Daktari? That was a tough sell. The time slot certainly didn’t help. Life Is Wild followed CW Now and Online Nation, a pair of cheap, half-hour reality shows. It also aired opposite Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC, one of the only other family friendly TV shows on the air in 2007.
Where to Watch
Although not available on DVD, you can purchase episodes of Life Is Wild through iTunes.
Hit the comments with your thoughts and memories to ensure that Life Is Wild isn’t forgotten forever.