Watching: Creature Comforts

Two new animal docs.

By Margaret Lyons

Dear Watchers,

Today’s beat-the-blues video: Dolly Parton watching people cover her songs, and those people in turn watching her praise those performances. Awww.

Have a safe week.

The human world is stressing me out

Our panda hero in “Pandas: Born to Be Wild.”Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

‘Meet the Chimps’

When to watch: Now, on Disney+

‘Pandas: Born to Be Wild’

When to watch: Wednesday at 8 p.m., on PBS. (Check local listings.)

Sometimes it’s better to watch a little panda crunch-crunch-crunch a snack than to look at Twitter. Perhaps it is always better. This week, if you need a little mental space from … everything, try the perky six-part docu-series “Meet the Chimps,” or the more reverent one-off “Pandas: Born to Be Wild.” Both have their moments of silliness and loveliness, with gentle narratives and pleasant anthropomorphizing.


Sara Soda is one of the alphas on “Meet the Chimps.”National Geographic/Virginia Quinn

“Chimps” is more in the vein of “Meerkat Manor,” and it follows the animals and caretakers at a chimp sanctuary in Louisiana. There’s a lot of emphasis on social hierarchies, and some of the chimps are identified as being “cool” while others are “awkward” or a “curmudgeon.” (I was not aware some chimps were perceived by other chimps to be chimp losers, and I will say it bummed me out a tiny bit. Maybe they will make a whole bunch of different friends at chimp drama camp over the summer!) If the voice some people use to talk to their dogs bugs you, don’t watch this. But otherwise, this is a mostly happy series with low-stakes drama and an appreciation for companionship.

“Born to Be Wild” is a bit dreamier, and it moves in the opposite direction: It follows a baby panda born in captivity but destined to be released into the wild. The cinematography is enchanting, and the footage from the crew’s encounter with a wild panda is interesting not only for what it captures, but more so because of how excited everyone is.




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