Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

The TV Column: Alec Baldwin’s puzzling Nat Geo Channel gig

National Geographic Channel’s announcement Thursday that Alec Baldwin will host a new weekly “Night of Exploration” programming block was a bit of a head-scratcher, especially for those who know his impassioned work with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And especially after reading the list of documentaries that will be presented under this umbrella.

Each Friday night, starting June 14, Baldwin will help NatGeo “celebrate the spirit of exploration.”

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Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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That first night, one of the documentaries he will introduce is called “Mystery Bear of the Arctic.” It’s about an American sport hunter who, in 2006, went to a remote Canadian island to hunt polar bear — and shot and killed what he believed to be a polar bear. Only it turns out that it was not necessarily a polar bear, which, NatGeo noted, unleashed an investigation by the Canadian authorities. The hunter came under threat of prosecution for a crime he said he did not commit.

According to an NBC News report of the incident, the hunter had paid $50,000 for a guide and a permit to hunt polar bear but found himself faced with the possibility of a $1,000 fine and as much as a year in jail for shooting a non-polar bear, “as well as the disappointment of an expensive hunting trip with no trophy.”

SPOILER ALERT: Tests on the dead bear came back showing it to have been the love child of a polar bear and a grizzly bear. The hunter was not fined, because he’d made a good-faith effort to kill a polar bear. The hunter even got back his dead bear from the local natural resources department — avoiding the disappointment of an expensive hunting trip with no trophy to show for it.

Scientists were thrilled, because the dead bear was believed to have been the first such polar/grizzly hybrid documented in the wild (polar bears and grizzlies apparently had been successfully paired in zoos before), and they all lived happily ever after — except the bear, of course.

Contacted for comment, a PETA rep told the TV Column: “Alec is known for getting his views across very clearly, and sometimes in surprising ways.” The spokesman pointed the column to a 2012 episode of “30 Rock.” At that time, Baldwin wrote to friends of PETA that he agreed to appear in a scene featuring a horse-drawn carriage in New York City only if his Jack Dohaghy character described such carriages as “rolling torture wagons for nature’s most dignified creature.”

“The description of the [NatGeo] bear episode is very vague, we can’t comment on it until we’ve seen it,” the PETA rep concluded.

The TV Column wondered Baldwin was aware of the big-game hunting docu in the series, and whether he planned to put his views on that subject across in his intro that night.

Called for comment, Baldwin told The TV Column that the determination of which documentaries were included in the series was up to NatGeo.

He said he was assured that the hunt in this particular docu was a legal hunt. He explained that he is opposed to sport hunting, but that he believes “you will never be able to illegalize these things. . . .All I can do is try to influence behavior.”

The airing of programming in which animals are killed for sport, for their fur, etc., can work to the advantage of animal-rights activists’ advantage, Baldwin insisted.

“ ’Twas ever thus, that when you show these things . . . that people shoot these exotic, or endangered, or what have you, animals, it has dividends for the animal-rights community,” he said.

He said he accepted the hosting gig “as a supporter of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary.”

A spokesperson for NatGeo said that Baldwin’s “role in ‘Night of Exploration’ is to introduce themes of adventure, discovery and exploration on a variety of programming without offering specific viewpoints.”

“Night of Exploration” is not Baldwin’s first NatGeo gig; he previously narrated “Great Migrations,” “Planet Carnivore” and “Journey to the Edge of the Universe.”

Mariah off ‘Idol’

Mariah Carey is officially out at “American Idol,” the pop diva confirmed Thursday, by re-tweeting her public-relations firm’s tweet:

“W/ global success of “#Beautiful” (#1 in 30+ countries so far) @MariahCarey confirms world tour & says goodbye 2 Idol.”

“Mariah Carey is a true global icon — one of the most accomplished artists on the planet — and we feel extremely fortunate that she was able to bring her wisdom and experience to the ‘American Idol’ contestants this season,” Fox network, “Idol” production house FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment said in the wake of all that tweeting.

The news surprised no one, what with Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, having already indicated she had one foot out the door — and with betting money these days on all the show’s celeb-judges being goners. Randy Jackson was first to tweet his exit; that leaves Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

Word is, the producers have abandoned the “polarizing celebrity judges” school of judge-table staffing, and are hoping to populate the table with “Idol”-produced stars, like Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Kelly Clarkson. That would also serve to remind us weekly that “Idol” is the only singing competition that actually has produced stars.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

 
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