Animal Planet has abruptly cancelled its “Call of the Wildman” series, just days before a new season was scheduled to air. The network says that the show was cancelled due to a lack of popularity, but the star of the show, Ernie Brown Jr., a.k.a. Turtleman, as well as its production company Sharpe Entertainment, were already under intense scrutiny after investigative reports exposed multiple acts of animal abuse.
The revelations sparked outrage among fans and animal activists, leading to multiple federal and state investigations. According the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “Call of the Wildman actively sought out species, taking them from their natural habitats and forcing them into stressful, dangerous, and unnatural situations. The animals were then tormented for the sake of entertainment as Brown chased and trapped them on camera.” Animal rights groups turned to legislative measures to ensure the allegations against Sharpe Entertainment were not brushed aside by authorities, as well as calling for the show to be axed.
Jodi Cook, a spokeswoman for Bell Media, the parent company of Animal Planet Canada, said in a statement that “Call of the Wildman has not been resonating with Canadian audiences and the decision was made not to move forward with Season 3 this month as previously announced. We will be replacing that title with content that is more in line with other programming that’s performing well with our Canadian viewers. There are no plans to return Call of the Wildman to our schedule at this time.”
Although Cook did not specify that the reason for the show’s cancellation was a direct result of the allegations of animal abuse, media personnel speculate that this is more than likely the reason. Paul Dergarabedian, a television and film industry analyst for Rentrak, a media research firm, says that even though it is not unheard of for television schedules to change last-minute, “nobody wants to have that kind of change in a release date that close to anything.” Considering the associated marketing costs, any last-minute changes are likely to be “cause for a bit of a stomach ache on the part of executives.”
Amanda Lotz, a media scholar at the University of Michigan, also says that the move would be financially and logistically undesirable. Lotz speculates that the decision was probably driven by worries about a larger cost if Animal Planet went ahead with the new season. “My suspicion would be that there’s ample concern about the negative publicity,” she said.
It still remains unclear whether Animal Planet Canada’s sister network in the United States plan to air a new season of the show. So far, the network and Sharp Entertainment have not made any announcements.
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