R.I.P. Jim Fowler, 'Wild Kingdom' host, animal expert and talk show regular

The 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom' star was 89.

Image: The Everett Collection

One of the more memorable final-season Seinfeld episodes revolves around Kramer digging the old set from The Merv Griffin Show out of the trash. He erects the funky, vintage set in his apartment and begins to stage his own talk show. He even books legitimate guests, including animal expert Jim Fowler.

"Where are the cameras?" Fowler asks Kramer. Then, the hawk that he has brought along attacks a squirrel that George is holding… and George. It's complicated, like most Seinfeld plots. 

The joke of that scene is that of course Kramer has booked Jim Fowler as a guest. Jim Fowler popped up on talk shows, bringing along exotic animals, for decades. The zoologist appeared several times on The Dick Cavett Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Fowler developed a great rapport with Johnny Carson and let his animal friends steal the spotlight. 

Raptors were his specialty. The Georgia native worked at a sanctuary in Florida before landing his big television break in early 1963. Fowler and fellow zoologist Marlin Perkins teamed up to host Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The duo hosted the show until Perkins retired in 1985. The show lived on for a few years with Fowler as the lone host. When the pioneering nature series was revived in the 21st century, Fowler returned to Wild Kingdom.

Fowler would typically be the one on camera with the animals, while Perkins narrated and educated off-camera. It was an arrangement that Johnny Carson often joked about.

On May 8, Fowler passed away at his home in Connecticut. He was 89 years old.



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TVJunkie 6 months ago
I agree with you Steph. Today, in 2019, I would say leave it alone but these old Wild Kingdom shows are from a bygone day. Back then Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler were at the forefront of discovery. These were days when they were among the earliest western explorers in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. These were the days prior to the African civil wars and mass poaching and deforestation. The world was still somewhat young and innocent. That gargantuan snake was not an oddity it was something few Americans and Europeans even knew existed. They acted out of the mindset of their times. How fortunate we are to have lived in that short crossover period of time to see the two extremes. Now, knowing what we do, it should seem urgent to us to speak out against species annihilation and do whatever we can in our small way to try and end it. Long live the memory of The Wild Kingdom.
TVJunkie 6 months ago
There's an episode of Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins narrating the story of a giant Anaconda. They didn't have sound with the picture back then. It was added later. It's in black and white too if I remember right. Anyway, Marlin is in this little tiny dugout canoe rowing next to this monster snake when he decides to jump out and capture it. Bad idea. The snake is HUGE ! And Marlin is a very slight man. The look on his face as this goes south on him is terrifying. In the narration Marlin calmly notes that he may now need Jim's assistance. The real life request was probably a bit more urgent. So here comes Jim Fowler, better than Tarzan and Race Bannon and Crocodile Dundee rolled together to save the day in the most epic save in TV history. One of the greats of our generation has passed and we are the poorer for it.
I've seen that same video. Why didn't they just leave that poor snake alone? He/she wasn't bothering anybody. I was hoping that it had succeeded in suffocating at least one of them. It would have served them right! When that British guy w/Marlin cut his finger, Iwas half hoping that the snake had bitten him. I know that sounds to some of you like a cruel thing to say; but like I said, they shouldn't have been bothering the snake.
Anybody curious as to who that woman is feeding the cheetah cub: I think that was Virginia Graham. She had 3 syndicated shows on Food For Thought, Girl Talk and The Virginia Graham show.
Misha 6 months ago
I'll flip through some books in this crocodile proof bunker while Jim makes his way up the river.
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