No Meer Reality Series

I’m not big on reality TV — at least the human kind.

But when it comes to the natural world, you get all the same fighting, intrigue, sex, backstabbing, poignant emotional moments and more. Granted, you don’t see animals get drunk. But you also don’t get to see the cast members of The Real World eat each other (unless those are in the outtakes), so it all balances out.

Most importantly, with animals you get honesty. Nothing is staged for the cameras. And that’s what makes Meerkat Manor so endearing. It’s simply a story of families literally struggling for survival. You like competition series? You’ve got it here. But the competition here isn’t for a record contract — it’s for life or death.

But it’s also so darn cute. And these animals can really hold their own out there on the Kalahari, which is probably what makes the show so addictive to watch. They are cute but fierce, and simply go about their lives.

This is evidenced in each episode, including the new one last Friday, “Sibling Rivalry.” If you missed it, basically what happened was that the Zappas woke up to find that their dominant female, Lola, is missing. Her big sister Punk didn’t seem overly heartbroken, however, since she jumped right in to try and fill sis’s shoes. With this type of competition, maybe the sibs should be named Marcia and Jan; but like the ill-fated middle Brady girl, Punk is not getting much respect, either.

When we finally see Lola, she is in a hole trying to recover from a bite from a puff adder, which have struck before on the series (remember Shakespeare’s heroic battle to overcome his similar bite in Season 1?). She seems to know, however, that she can’t make it on her own, so she begins a dangerous — and obviously painful — walk back to her clan. But once Lola is in sight, what would you expect Punk, as any good jealous sister, to do? That’s right, she begins to “anal mark” on her (well, maybe you wouldn’t quite do exactly that to your sister, but you know what I mean). Still weakened by the venom, Lola just has to take it. Apparently Punk has begun to gain some respect from the others at this point, not quite sure what she has done (maybe it has something to do with that anal marking; let’s hope the folks on Survivor don’t catch wind of that successful ploy).

Before you think there wasn’t any sex in this episode, hold on a minute. The Zappa male Houdini is over pestering the Whiskers family, trying to hit on some of the gals. But the Whiskers guys are having none of it, and they chase him off. But some of the girls looked pretty interested … And, in fact, Houdini later does sweep a couple of them off their feet, or paws, or whatever they have. Then vanishes as quickly as his namesake, without even making breakfast. Maybe this guy should be the new host of The Pickup Artist.

Back with the Zappas, poor Lola has taken off into her hole again, feeling left out. And now macho man Houdini is back and ready to oust current leader Frank, which he does fairly easily, hooking up with Punk and becoming the dominant Zappa male himself. A double coup d’etat in one half-hour episode!

This episode had a particular darkness and tragic nature to it, almost like a Revenge of the Sith sort of thing with a sudden seizure of power. This also does not bode well for the Whiskers, since the Zappas seem to now have, under Punk, the growing confidence needed to compete for resources and anything else they want. The stage may be set for epic battles, and perhaps tragic consequences, as the season progresses.

You won’t get this kind of drama from Beauty and the Geek.