Staring into the glut of entertainment Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, AppleTV, etc. provides, I’m often too overwhelmed to pick anything meaningful. Nothing is actually challenging or rewarding and I ultimately feel bored and disappointed that I have my television on. When I feel this way, I go to PBS. Their programming is always so thoughtful and, while not always challenging, it is usually exciting and provides a generous amount of things to think about. PBS never lets you down. It’s a free channel, too.
I’m particularly obsessed with their nature programming. They have fantastically odd documentaries, from explainers on wild animal sex to playful and absurd zoological profiles. They are all wonderful. The latest (And one of the greatest.) entrees into their animal canon is Operation Wild, a television show where little people doctors attempt to fix large animals through unconventional medical practices. It is basically Extreme Makeover: Animal Edition.
Each episode follows a handful of storylines about wounded animals in need of some human help. There are elephants with bullet wounds that need addressing, blind orangutans who have the potential to see, manta rays that need ultrasounds, and seals with toothaches: there is a bit of everything. It’s also fucking adorable. The first episode can be spent squealing in delight when you aren’t cooing in scientific pleasure.
It isn’t always sunshine, though: things can get a bit graphic when dealing with animals and doctors. The second episode features a sometimes unpleasant look at a rhinoceros whose horn was ripped from her face—and it’s quite brutal to encounter. She comes out on top in the end but, fuck, she has seen some shit in her day. The aforementioned orangutan eye surgery is a little bit icky as well, particularly when they flood her lens with fluid and you watch her eye bubble up with liquid. It’s unsettling but, hey, that’s science.
I still love this Operation Wild, though. It’s just great nature television that gives a viewer plenty of emotional offerings to latch onto. What the hell other show do you get to watch a gorilla get an amputation and then learn that, because of the surgery, he now is happy and can climb trees again? That’s Operation Wild. You can stream the show online or catch it on the PBS app.