Tonight, Animal Planet debuts Grizzly Man Diaries, which follows Timothy Treadwell, the man killed by the bears he lived among in Alaska. Back-to-back half-hour episodes air at 9 p.m. ET for four weeks as part of Animal Planet’s increasing focus on edgier but still animal-focused unscripted TV.
Treadwell was the subject of Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man, and like that movie, which shares producers with the TV show, the new series uses footage shot by Treadwell. It combines “hundreds of hours of archived footage, private pages from his diaries and more than 10,000 still photographs,” according to Animal Planet, “showcasing the personalities of the individual bears as well as Treadwell’s passion and unique connection with them” and “truly tells the story that Treadwell hoped to share — featuring ‘his’ bears as genuine creatures to be respected, admired, loved, heralded and amazed by, not as the wild, strong and dangerous animals that killed him.”
It’s quite compelling, in part because there’s a lot of incredible raw footage of bears (and foxes), but in part because Treadwell is so oddly captivating. He narrates as if he was producing his own Animal Planet documentary, providing information and facts usually while a bear does its thing extremely close by. Some of it gets a bit pedantic, but there’s always the threat of death lingering over even those moments, like when he tells an aggressive bear, “good boy.”
An actual narrator reads from Treadwell’s diaries, and in one of those excerpts, Treadwell writes, “my life is an exciting fucking life.” It’s hard to disagree, even knowing how that life eventually ended.