Life is Wild: BuddyTV Fall 2007 Preview
Life is Wild: BuddyTV Fall 2007 Preview
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Premiere Date and Time: Sunday, October 7, 8pm

Network: The CW

Time Slot Competition: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Sunday Night Football, Viva Laughlin, The Simpsons and King of the Hill

Cast: D.W. Moffett, Stephanie Niznik, Andrew St. John, Leah Pipes, David Butler, Calvin Goldspink, Atandwa Kani

Life is Wild is the CW's attempt to cater to the family values crowd it won over so well with 7th Heaven. It's heartwarming, or at least it tries to be, but the biggest asset the show has is its location. Not only does the show take place in South Africa, but it's actually shot on location, which is easily noticeable in its impressive visual tone. Even if you don't care much for the plot or story or characters, the show can still be seen as an extraordinary National Geographic special, giving Americans a look at a part of the world so often forgotten.

As impressive as it is to see the African plain, it's a shame the CW couldn't find a more original plot for it. A prominent veterinarian (D.W. Moffett), his second wife(Stephanie Niznik), and their four children move to the old South African hotel his dead first wife was raised in to help save the wildlife. It's absurd, and the children, particularly the teenagers, are rightfully mad at their father for this dramatic upheaval. Though, because Life is Wild is a family drama, it isn't long before the kids find that South Africa has something for them as well.

The biggest trouble is that, while watching it, you wonder why the CW didn't pick up Everwood last year. The two shows are startlingly similar in premise. Famous doctor, check. Uprooting his family and moving them to a location with sentimental value to his dead first wife, check. Rebellious teenage son and precocious know-it-all daughter, check. Stephanie Niznik, check.

Perhaps, like Everwood, Life is Wild will be given a chance to grow and mature, becoming truly great despite its many clichés. That's no easy task, as the pilot is so obvious viewers could have written it themselves. The move is ostensibly precipitated by the rebel son who gets picked up by the cops for punching his teenage step-sister's boyfriend. She is mad, though anyone who's ever seen an episode of any show instantly realizes this wasn't a random act of violence, and that by the end of the episode, she will realize his motives were noble.

The hardest part will be figuring out if Life is Wild wants to be a great, touching series for the whole family, or an obnoxiously preachy show like 7th Heaven. It will have difficulty being the latter simply because the female teenage protagonist Katie (Leah Pipes) is far too bland. She's the kind of kid TV writers think should exist, the ones with pathetically shallow voiceovers in which they claim to have a greater understanding of themselves. Katie is an exhaustingly unoriginal character, though there is one saving grace.

By the end of the first episode, Katie finds herself literally between two new potential love interests. The teenage love triangle is nothing new, but since one of these suitors is Tumelo (Atandwa Kani), things become slightly interesting. Many white teenage girls living in the suburbs of America rarely are faced with the possibility of dating a native African, which lends a real sense of originality to an otherwise banal character. Of course, the other one is British actor Calvin Goldspink (think England's Zac Eron): tween girl tested, mother approved.

Life is Wild is, ultimately, the most difficult to rate of the new shows. The beautiful location filming and attempts at heartwarming family values are all enviable. Unfortunately, the actual plot and characters aren't quite worthy of such an original production concept. It leaves you wishing for either a better plot, or just the return of Everwood.

Get all the scoop and features on the Fall 2007 new and returning shows at BuddyTV's Fall TV Guide >>

-John Kubicek, BuddyTV
(Photo courtesy of The CW)