National Geographic Television Special Island of the Giant Bears

The second of four National Geographic spex of the season, docu looks at the denizens of Kodiak Island, gigantic Kodiak bears and Alutiiq natives, whose numbers have been severely cut down over the 7,000 years since their arrival. Outsiders' plans for the future should make any environmentalist gnash teeth, but the program is informative and, in its way, beautiful.

With:
Narrator: Richard Kiley.

The second of four National Geographic spex of the season, docu looks at the denizens of Kodiak Island, gigantic Kodiak bears and Alutiiq natives, whose numbers have been severely cut down over the 7,000 years since their arrival. Outsiders’ plans for the future should make any environmentalist gnash teeth, but the program is informative and, in its way, beautiful.

Strong production values, led by superb camera work and by Barry Nye’s keen editing, give the special its usual National Geo glow, with shots of the huge bears living their solitary lives. The mother bears guard their cubs fiercely, protecting them from the males, who will unhesitatingly devour the young ones.

Bears nursing, fighting, lumbering along well-trod paths that their forebears walked, catching salmon, mating, eating flowers and grass make ideal photo ops; sleeping, snarling, climbing into a pickup truck, enjoying humans’ picnics while the people try shooing them off also are good studies.

The cameras roam over ridges and the ocean, the forests and streams, and catch the pristine beauty of the 3,620-square-mile isle where bears and humans dwell in careful mutual respect. The arrival of developers and hunters — of both the gun and the camera persuasion — indicate how Kodiak Island is going to go.

Worthy program catches the natural beauties of a remote, poverty-ridden island confronting a bleak future with a Tourist Lodge already in place and roads being laid. At least the National Geographic Society was able to picture the island’s unique blend of man, bears and nature before they vanish into pizza parlors and fun zones.

National Geographic Television Special Island of the Giant Bears

(Wed. (12), 8-9 p.m., PBS)

Production: Filmed on Kodiak Island, Alaska, by National Geographic Society. Exec producers, Nicolas Noxon, Tom Simon; supervising producer, Teresa Koenig; producer, Wolfgang Bayer; co-producers, Barry Nye, Gail Willumsen; writer, Willumsen.

Crew: Camera, Bayer, Kenneth Houseman; series supervising producer, Nye; sound, Kenneth Love, Tristan Bayer, Candice Bayer, David Linstrom, Ken King; music, Jay Chattaway.

Cast: Narrator: Richard Kiley.

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