Meerkat Manor: Best of Season 3 (2007) Review
(More customer reviews)"Meerkat Manor" is a long running documentary series that takes place in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. Although commonly mistaken as rodents, meerkats are actually members of the Carnivora order, and specifically, they are a species of mongoose, Suricata suricatta. They live in social groups headed by a dominant female.
The long timespan of the series, the close up, intimate camera work, the naming of each individual (not just with a first name, but also a last name, which, as far as I know, is the first time that that has ever been done in an animal documentary), the fact that they stand on their hind legs, and the narrator's anthromorphization of the meerkats, lets us get to know these animals in a way that no other animal documentary ever has.
The camera work, film editing, and musical scoring all suggest that the people who made this series have a strong love of classic movies. The series is epic in scope, with many of the episodes having cliffhanger endings. This show is about life, death, sex, loyalty, romantic betrayal, jealousy, struggles for power, bravery, heroism, wars, battles, fights over territory, and sibling rivalry, all of which are part of human society. These things make "Meerkat Manor" the epitome of animal documentaries. Although a few new series have attempted to copy this series' format, all of those copycats have failed to meet this series' high standards of excellence.
As the warning at the beginning of every episode states, this show is about the real life and death events of the members of the "Whiskers" meerkat family and other meerkat families. Season 3 contained the real life deaths of a number of very important characters in this series. Since this is not a fictional show, these deaths impacted many viewers far more than they were accustomed to being affected by the deaths of fictional character on "regular" TV series, and several newspapers had articles about this.
Some parents of young children even stopped letting their children watch the show. While it's not my place to tell parents how to raise their children, and I admit that I don't even have any children of my own, I did have pets when I was a child. And from my own personal experiences, watching the real life deaths of my own pets, while sad, helped to make me a more sensitive and thoughtful person. So I think parents might be making a mistake when they stop letting their children watch this show. I think children could come out as better people for having seen season 3 in its entirely.
I should point out that meerkats cannot and should not be kept as pets. Although watching this show might tempt some parents to try to obtain meerkats for their children (the up close camera work makes them look big, but the truth is that adult meerkats actually only weigh about a pound and a half) you should never, ever keep one as a pet. As a child, I had green anoles, gerbils, guppies, and box turtles as pets, and I heartily and enthusiastically recommend those as pets. Do not get your child a meerkat, no matter how much he or she might beg!
Here are the 13 episodes from season 3, without any major spoiler information. The episode titles here are those for the region 1 (U.S. and Canada) DVD release of the show. Other countries may use different episode titles, a different narrator, and different names for some of the meerkats, in some of the episodes. The narrator here for the U.S. version is Sean Astin. Actually, when the show aired in Canada, the narrator was Bill Nighy, so Canadians who buy this DVD set may end up surprised that it has a different narrator than they are accustomed to. Here are the episodes:
On Dangerous Ground - The Whiskers meet their new neighbors and enemies, the Zappa. The Zappa's dominant male is named Frank. Frank Zappa. Heh heh. (For younger viewers who might now know, Frank Zappa was a popular music singer.)
The Mission - Mitch tries to reunite the Whiskers family, after several members had become separated and lost from the main group. There's a powerful scene transition at the end of this episode, which is a wonderful example of why I believe the people who made this series have a love of classic movies. First, they show the Whiskers family, who have just been victorious in their battle against the Zappas. The Whiskers are all happy and safe, the music is joyous, and the sky is brightly lit. Things are going very well, and everyone is optimistic about the future. Then it transitions to the Zappa family, who have just lost that same battle. The sky is dark. The music is sinister and ominous. The Zappa are very upset. They want revenge. This scene transition is as good as those of any fictional drama that I have ever seen. The makers of the show didn't have to do this, because all the necessary factual information had already been presented in earlier scenes. These two extra scenes, and the transition between them, is one of those extra touches that makes this show so great. Instead of doing the bare minimum that was necessary, the makers of the show went well above and beyond the call of duty, in order to achieve excellence.
Sister Act - Part of me wants to hate Kinkajou for what she does in this episode. But another part of me knows that, as horrible as it may seem, it is a normal part of meerkat behavior.
The Death Of Romance - It seems that the most powerful events in these episodes tend to happen at the end of the episode. This one is tragic. The title of the episode pretty much gives away the "what." I won't spoil it for you by giving away the "who."
Tale of Len and Squiggy - This episode is about Flowers' two new pups.
Sibling Rivalry - This is the first time that any meerkat in the process of stealing the position of dominance has ever been filmed. Actually, there are two different such overthrows within this episode.
Heavy the Crown - We learn why Flower is the true leader of the Whiskers. She is the only one capable of keeping the gang (groups of meerkats really are called gangs) together.
Journey's End - This is the pivotal episode of the series. Nothing will ever be the same after this episode. Grown men have been known to cry after watching this one. Sean Astin's eulogy is as moving as any that I have heard heard.
A New Day - No matter how horrible the events in your life are, you still have to wake up the next day and face the world. This is the beginning of a whole new way of life for the Whiskers.
Farewell My Lovely - Zaphod rules! This is one of the most fun episodes of the series. There's a wonderful camera shot of Zaphod standing on his hind legs, with the camera rotating around him, and the narrator says (these are not necessarily his exact words, as my memory is not perfect) "Although it should be very rough for Zaphod, he's having the time of his life." There's more to that scene and narration, but that's enough to let you know the scene that I am talking about. The camera work and narration in this scene are absolutely brilliant. Then at the end of the episode, after Zaphod had experienced some major disappointments, the camera shows Zaphod standing up on a hill, overlooking the vast expanse of the Kalahari, and the narrator says (again, these are not necessarily his exact words) "But Zaphod is made of stronger stuff than those who have come before him." Again, there's more to that scene and narration, but that's enough to let you know the scene that I am talking about. They didn't have to do either of these scenes. But they did. These are more examples of those extra touches that make this series so exciting to watch. Both of these complete scenes, and their complete narrations (which have far more words than what I have quoted here) are examples of why I absolutely love this show so much.
Three Degrees of Separation - No matter how much I might hate what Kinkajou did earlier in this season, I can't help but feel very sad for her in this episode. Some of the camera shots of her show what true suffering really is. This is quite a tragic episode. Some people have criticized the show for including these scenes, but I think these scenes, so up close and personal, are exactly what make this series so great.
The Graduate - There's really no letting up on how tough life in the Kalahari is. This episode is another very sad one, and as usual, the saddest part happens at the end of the episode.
A Family at War - Toward the end up this episode, the narrator says (and this time my memory is 100% accurate) "Maybe it's Maybelline." That's a reference to an advertising slogan for a leading cosmetics company. No, it's not a paid placement - the writers did it to see if anyone was paying attention, not for financial reward. It's just a really funny and clever pop culture reference, and I think it's brilliant.
Click Here to see more reviews about: Meerkat Manor: Best of Season 3 (2007)
Now you can see the BEST episodes from Meerkat Manor Season Three, all on one disc!