You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Wild Kratts’ Tackle New Adventure: PBS’ Live, Wild ‘Alaska’

The “Wild Kratts” have a new beast to tame.

Chris and Martin Kratt (above, pictured) have over the years navigated visits with a Western spotted skunk and a moray eel. On Sunday at 8 p.m., the popular PBS Kids duo will tackle something equally difficult to soothe: a media-savvy adult with a remote control close at hand.

The Kratts, best known these days for their long-running presence in several animated series focused on animals and the environment, intend to take those interests to their viewers’ parents as they host a live three-night series,” Wild Alaska Live.” The spectacle will let viewers watch live as cameras examine bears, wolves, beavers, moose, orcas and eagles gathering in droves to take part in Alaska’s annual summer feast, sparked by hordes of salmon making their annual trek upstream to spawn. The Kratts will anchor the proceedings from places like Kenai Fjords National Park and the wilderness of Katmai National Park, with correspondents and some taped packages at the ready.

“You don’t know exactly what you’re going to find,” said Martin Kratt, in an interview. “You know what you expect and hope to find, but you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.” Subsequent episodes will air July 26 and July 30.

PBS is the latest TV network to examine the possibilities of live spectacles, which have gained new emphasis as  TV executives seek new ways to keep great numbers of viewers tuning in all at once. One-time couch potatoes can rise and find a TV program at the ready at nearly any moment, thanks to mobile devices and streaming video. But a live event is perishable: Miss it and you may face being out of the loop.

“Wild Alaska Live” isn’t the Super Bowl or a Nik Wallenda tightrope walk above Chicago, but for some people, it’s a spectacle they won’t want to miss. “This is an event people may not have access to,” says Bill Margol, senior director of programming and development at PBS. “There are places in the world where people want to go and don’ thave the time or the means to get there.”

More networks are placing emphasis on both old and new forms of live programming, from live stagings of popular Broadway plays like “Sound of Music” or “Grease” to a frenetic game show led by Neil Patrick Harris. NBC has even removed some of the advertising in its venerable “Saturday Night Live” to make it more appealing to viewers. CBS and NBC have elbowed each other for access to Thursday-night football games. And cable’s E! recently appointed an executive, Jen Neal, to oversee live-event programming ranging from fashion shows to red-carpet walks.

PBS hope to announce another live effort for next year in the near future, said Beth Hoppe, PBS’ chief programming executive.

The three-day Alaska event didn’t just materialize out of thin air. PBS and the BBC collaborated on a 2015 effort, “Big Blue Live,” which showcased marine life in Monterey Bay.  “Alaska” is built on a similar model, meaning that crews are working on two productions one for British audiences and the other for Americans.

Viewers will understand seeing nature live is more than just a gimmick, said Hoppe. “We could not be live for the sake of being live,” she said. “There’s an actual event we are covering that gives it a reason to be live.” Interesingly enough, the first episode will be broadcast against the opening of Discovery Channel’s famous “Shark Week.”

The logistics of “Alaska” are complex. Crews will be spread out over 800 miles, noted Margol. Equipment and consoles and cameras had to be shipped by barge or flown in by plane. “It’s really this complex orchestration of people and equipment and time and then you layer upon that the complexities of Alaska’s weather, which is never a sure thing.” Producers have been at large in Alaska for several days now, trying to identify bears and other animals they can present when the cameras are on.

For the Kratts, their participation brings an opportunity to extend what they do to the parents of their regular viewers. The brothers say working with animals means being ready for almost anything, but this show offers new challenges. “We make sure we know all about the animals we are working with,” said Martin Kratt. “But this is live and it will be different.”

More TV

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content