Quick Look: NatGeo Wild’s ‘Shane Untamed’

06.14.11 7 years ago

NGT/Ramona Robbins

Who the heck is Shane Reynolds? Or should I say, Shane O? That nickname, along with the gonzo show title, almost made me click past NatGeo Wild’s “Shane Untamed.” The last thing I wanted to watch was some thrill seeing yahoo jet skiing through the Everglades, flipping off alligators and trying to use a manatee as a boogie board.

But thankfully NatGeo Wild (which debuted in the U.S. last year) is not MTV, so I stuck around for a while. It’s a good thing I did, because this guy with a nickname that makes him sound like a reject from a “Jackass” movie has made a pretty good hour-long show.
This isn’t to say that Reynolds, a “one man band” producer, shooter and host, doesn’t add some MTV-worthy attitude to his show. He is, after all, seeking adventure, not a rare bird find. In the premiere, he wants to face his fear of snakes and alligators while visiting the Florida Everglades, which means plenty of close encounters of the slithery kind and some bleeped expletives. He drives an air boat, tries to fish (unsuccessfully) like a Miccosukee Indian and takes pictures of gators at an uncomfortably close range. If we have any doubt that he’s a fun guy and not a boring research scientist, he has creative facial hair and says things like “Get out of town, Charlie Brown,” and “Gator road pie for breakfast, anyone?” and “This is a diverse and ever changing topography.” Okay, that last part wasn’t particularly fun, but it brings us to another point.
This is National Geographic, Wild or not, and the mission to educate viewers about the natural world seems pretty clear. Hand it to Reynolds for finding the balance between hammering us over the head with facts and just taking us on a ride. Yes, there are plenty of animated maps, pop up factoid bubbles (Did you know Florida’s state tree is the cabbage palm? Hope not) and learning opportunities during the show, but then Reynolds asks the question we’d probably ask (yes, people have tried to grow pot in the Everglades) and we’re back on the entertainment track.
Reynolds, who describes himself as an “expert enthusiast,” wisely hands off the heavy lifting to actual experts when it comes to things like manatees and wildlife, but throws in a nutjob or two to make things interesting. In the premiere he finds the local “expert” on the skunk ape (basically Florida’s answer to Bigfoot). Reynolds resists rolling his eyes, though we wouldn’t blame him if he did.
Reynolds is an affable, often funny host, and to his credit he resists the urge to take center stage away from the setting. He also knows there are things you don’t joke around about. Reynolds points out the propeller scars on the manatees he sees and is careful not to bug them after being informed it’s a no-no by the manatee specialist.
The Nat Geo Wild website says Reynolds will be hitting Guyana, Alaska and Madagascar in future episodes. This show may actually be good for me , but I’ll just have to live with it.


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