This is a reality TV program about meerkats. It is totally engrossing. There is more melodrama packed into one day of this large family of mongoose relatives living in the Kalahari Desert than you’ll find on most human shows in a month. Every 24 hours some disaster befalls this clan, and 24-hour cameras record everything. A brave son suffers a lethal snake bite, then stupid teenage baby-sitters go off to play and forget the baby who dies in the heat, a psycho uncle puts the colony in danger, a sad betrayal by a brother-in-law, a rebellious daughter gets pregnant via a male from the enemy clan, a powerful mother plans infanticide, and nasty one-eyed leader from a rival tribe tries to take over — all that is just the first week!
This long running series has become a huge international hit. There are tons of online forums, discussion boards and YouTube clips interpreting the complicated relationships of these cuddly mammals. The small size of the meerkats speeds up the cycle of their lives, and their open desert home makes filming easy. Plus they stand on two feet — instant film stars! In addition meerkats are weirdly social animals (the dominant female prevents other females from having families) which makes the saga of their intertwining lives endlessly fascinating.
With 52 episodes now filmed, the series is quite addictive. Unscripted, the shows are constantly surprising. You can never guess what will happen next on this super-charged reality show. Will the wayward daughter live or die? Will her mom kill her children in anger? Will the hated brother break up the clan? Meerkat Manor provides the same gossip-fodder as a human soap opera, except it’s far more extreme in its plot turns. It’s a soap opera on steroids.
Best of all Meerkat Manor is a supreme piece of natural history — the cameras and longitudinal study is based the Oxford-sponsored Kalahari Meerkat Project‘s 10-year observation of these colonies. This series is an intense short course in mammal behavior. Hard not to get hooked.
Meerkat Manor: Season 1
Oxford Scientific Films
2006, 280 min.
DVD (2 discs), $13
Read more about the film at Wikipedia
Rent from Netflix
Available from Amazon