Discovery Channel's Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees
Cry sounds like a promisingly fresh special about the emotional lives of animals.
Instead, it proves to be a disappointing, overly long compilation of wildlife video
Like a compilation music compact disc, this special strikes
us as a reel of greatest moments in the emotional lives of domestic and wild animals. Each
vignette is even given titles, like "Mother & Child," "Child's
Play" and "The Humanimal Bond."
And like a multisegment newsmagazine show, Why Dogs
Smile manages to include some involving pieces and great footage. But at two hours --
and divided into two separate hours -- it is far too long to sustain most viewers'
interest. It also doesn't help that actress Sigourney Weaver's narration comes
across as a bit lifeless.
Some of the more interesting or touching segments include:
a mother elephant showing painstaking patience with a struggling newborn, whose legs
initially appear to be deformed; a chimp teaching a younger chimp sign language; a pack of
wolves mourning a dead wolf, despite it's having been at the bottom of the
pack's hierarchy; and a troop of rhesus monkeys that eventually beats an abusive
upstart for having earlier slain their kindly leader.
In a feature on cats and dogs that pick up such humanlike
emotional disorders as anxiety and depression, Weaver notes that they often respond to the
same remedial medications as people.
Interestingly, we learn that the rescue dogs used in the
Oklahoma City bombing aftermath became depressed and uncooperative once they began finding
only corpses. The cure: Stage a mock rescue at the end of each day to lift the dogs'
Another special that doesn't quite live up to its
billing is Animal Planet's Borneo Burning: Orangutan Rescue. Despite the title
and fiery promotional materials, this hour omits footage on a fire last summer that
devastated 19,000 square miles of forest in which the orangutans live.
Produced with the British Broadcasting Corp., this
documentary accompanies BBC journalist Michaela Strachan as an ecologist tries to save
scores of injured and orphaned apes.
Discovery will run Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry May
9 at 8 p.m., while Animal Planet was due to show Borneo Burning this past Saturday
(April 24) at 9 p.m.