Television Review: Life is Wild - Pilot
by R.J. Carter
Published: October 3, 2007
In the course of reviewing a handful of pilot programs for the 2007/08 Fall season, I've seen a number of science fiction, a few action comedies, and yet another forensics drama. Of all of them, Life is Wild stands out as the premiere family-friendly drama of the new season.
In this new CW series, D.W. Moffett plays veterinarian Danny Clarke, widowered patriarch of the blended Clarke clan. When his stepson, Jesse (Andrew St. John), is expelled from school and nearly arrested, Danny decides it's time for the whole family to get away and work on their bonding. His new wife Jo (Stephanie Niznik), a divorce attorney, agrees. But Danny's plan isn't to take the family camping for a week. They're leaving the urban sprawl of New York for the untamed wilds of South Africa, to the Blue Antelope, a lodge run by Danny's first wife's father, Art (David Butler).
Danny's daughter Katie (Leah Pipes), perpetually perky and optimistic, is all for making the best of things and supporting her father. But Jesse becomes more resentful than ever, telling Danny, "I'd rather be in jail with my real father than here with you."
The Blue Antelope has long since fallen into disrepair, to the chagrin of the family. A competing lodge gets most of the tourism, but Art thinks the place is run too much like an amusement park -- and in truth there does seem to be something slightly awry in the way it's run, although we're not shown anything overtly off-kilter in the pilot episode. The owner has two teens roughly the same age as Jesse and Katie: Oliver Banks (Calvin Goldspink) and his ice queen sister, Emily (Tiffany Mulheron). Oliver quickly takes a shine to Katie, but Emily cooly rebuffs any flirtations from Jesse (so I'm guessing she must really like him).
Katie also makes the friendly acquaintance of another local, Tumelo (Atandwa Kani), who takes her to meet his "sister" -- a cheetah he rescued.
Wild Life. Leah Pipes stars as Katie Clarke in
The CW's "Life is Wild."
As the family acclimates to their new surroundings, things become dangerously complicated when reports come in of a wounded lioness (shot by poachers) encroaching on populated areas. Younger brother Chase (K'sun Ray) is convinced the abandoned lion cub the family has adopted belongs to the lioness, and sets off to reunite them -- his own way of dealing with his own recent maternal loss. The adults set off after him when stepsister Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser) alerts them to Chase's absence. Meanwhile, Katie learns from her grandfather the reason why her mother left her South African home years ago, choosing never to speak with her father again.
Life is Wild promises to be Everwood meets Wild Kingdom. The family has its conflicts, to be sure, but the producers have wisely created a cast with members and storylines to appeal across all family strata, from young children through teens and parents. There's almost a Swiss Family Robinson quality, albeit far more modern. (There are phones to be had, for instance -- they're not completely isolated from humanity.) Overall, the show is wholesome, effervescent, and exciting, all at the same time, and should be a prime time magnet for households looking for something the entire family can watch.
Life is Wild premieres October 7 on The CW at 8:00pm, 7:00pm CST.
Read our complete look at the Fall TV season at Network Programming Falls Into Place for 2007/08 Television Viewing Season