With shows and movies about polar animals, the product practically sells itself. March of the Penguins was one of the biggest mainstream documentaries of recent years, for example. The Smithsonian Channel’s Polar Bear Town focuses on the migration of Canadian polar bears especially as it affects the residents and visitors of the small town of Churchill, Manitoba. It is part biological documentary about the habits of the bears and part social commentary on the interactions between man and wild.
As of the current run of the show, the main focus on the human side is on the veteran tour guides who make their living off of the two month “polar bear season” in Churchill as the beasts are travelling throughout the town. Other human stories that are covered include the travails of Erin, who was attacked by a bear during Halloween, the Churchill environmental officers who try to keep bears and humans from having dangerous interactions, and Brian, who runs a dog sanctuary.
As for the bears, the camera focuses on them about as much as it does on the human problems. A few of them are followed by camera throughout their quest in pursuit of survival. The scenes are explained by a narrator who explains the behavior which is being witnesses. This part follows the standard procedure for animal documentaries as seen on Animal Planet or the Discovery Chanel, minus the celebrity or solemn British narrator.
Even in the absence of the ridiculously histrionic plotlines of reality television, the show is captivating. The monotony of a one-track informative documentary is broken up by the frequent switch between a biology flick on the habits of polar bears and a sociological piece on people who live on a small town in the societal fringe of Canada. Each of the two parts may have worked well on their own, but when they are brought together it makes for a doubly pleasing viewing experience.
As of this writing, only a single episode has aired on a fairly small channel, but it’s already managed to get some good votes on IMBD. It holds an 8 out of 10 there, which is about fair considering the interesting content. Journalists are also seeing the potential of the show and it has been covered fairly extensively by People Magazine and the New York Times.
The Smithsonian Channel is putting episodes of this series on YouTube free of charge. This may be mostly a promotional series to increase interest in the competitor to other educational channels. It performs its function well enough. The content is good and, as Coca Cola has proven, people feel some affinity to polar bears even above that which they feel for normal brown bears, which is already quite high. Although this seems like a one-off six-part series, the interest may be enough to bring on another season perhaps in another town or some other place with many of these majestic behemoths.
We’ll be releasing information on the future of #PolarBearTown as it becomes available. Sign up for our E-mail notification list down below to become a party to this information. We’ll be sending out notifications if the show is renewed for a second season or if the documentary series is officially cancelled by the Smithsonian.
Have you been watching #PBT? What do you think of the style combining a documentary style with a reality television style? Has the show encouraged you to take a trip up to northern Canada to see the bears? Give us your comments and opinions down below.