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5 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’

Long before the days of the internet and online streaming, families gathered around their televisions on Sunday evenings and tuned in to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Since its network television premiere on NBC in 1963, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom has been one of the most loved and respected wildlife programs in television history. It took viewers to the far corners of the world and studied wild animals in their natural habitats.

Hosts Marlin Perkins, Jim Fowler, and Peter Gros wrestled anacondas, swam with sharks, and were chased by a herd of elephants. They provided a look at an often-unseen animal world and emphasized the importance of conservation while creating family-friendly entertainment. For many viewers, Wild Kingdom was more than a Sunday night ritual; it ignited a passion for wildlife conservation and propelled them into lifelong careers.

Celebrating its 60th year anniversary, the groundbreaking wildlife show returns home to NBC this October with a new original series, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild. The show will be co-hosted by veteran wildlife expert and former host of the original Wild Kingdom series, Peter Gros, and newcomer, wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant.

Ahead of the new series premiere, take a walk down memory lane with these wild facts you may not know about the iconic series and its hosts.

Image by Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

5. There were 330 Episodes in the Original Series 

Covering six of the seven continents in environments ranging from deserts below sea level in Africa to subfreezing inclines 16,000 feet high in the Himalayas, original hosts Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler provided viewers with an engaging exploration of wildlife for nearly three decades. During this time, they filmed 330 episodes. (For reference, there are only 236 episodes of Friends.)

4. It Attracted Millions of Viewers . . . for Decades

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom averaged 34 million television viewers in the United States and captivated audiences for more than 25 years. The series set the standard for today’s wildlife and reality programming, pioneering the nature-adventure genre and becoming one of television’s most successful syndicated programs.

3. Johnny Carson Was a Big Fan 

Original host Jim Fowler was a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, making countless guest appearances on the late-night program over the years. It was in Carson’s studio where Peter Gros met Jim Fowler and was presented with the chance of a lifetime. Fowler explained that Marlin Perkins was stepping down from his hosting duties and the show needed a new co-host. In 1985, Gros officially joined as co-host of Wild Kingdom and filmed his first episode, “Operation Alligator” in Louisiana.

2. ‘Wild Kingdom’ Went Digital in 2014 With Webisodes 

In 2009, Mutual of Omaha created the Wild Kingdom TV Channel on YouTube and Facebook and introduced its first web series in 2014. With a new format and new stories, wild guide Stephanie Arne led the brand’s first digital content series, delivering five seasons of webisodes over four years. This effort expanded the brand to digital platforms and reached new audiences, while continuing to spread core messages about the importance of wildlife conservation. 

Image by Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

1. The New Series’ Co-Hosts Were Inspired by the OG Show

Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant were deeply influenced by watching Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler bring the wonders of the wild kingdom into Americans’ living rooms with a confidence and respect that underscored the importance of conservation. The new co-hosts both attribute their inspiration to pursue a career in wildlife conservation to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, making this a bit of a full-circle moment for the brand.

Since 1963, Wild Kingdom has introduced generations of people to new animal species and exotic places around the globe from the comfort of their living rooms, influencing viewers to join in the conservation efforts. The show has received 41 major awards, including four Emmys, an endorsement from the National PTA, and the First Annual Communications Award from the National Wildlife Association.

The new series premieres Saturday, October 7 on NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block and will be available on NBC.com and NBC VOD.

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