When Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor series premiered two years ago, I was immediately hooked. 

The first season introduced us to Flower, the powerful matriarch of the “Whiskers” clan of meerkats living in Africa’s Kalahari Desert.  And it was established early on that, despite her diminutive size, she was large and in charge of her 29-member family. 

Meerkats, viewers quickly learned, are “elongated” members of the mongoose family and are “masked” with white fur markings across their faces.  They’re cute little critters—less than 2 lbs. in weight and only up to 14 inches in body length.  And they use their tails as “third legs” to help them balance like a tripod, so that they can stand in an upright position for better panoramic viewing.

What was so different about Meerkat Manor, as opposed to other animal series I had seen prior, was the humanization of the animals and the presentation of their daily lives in an almost soap-opera type of format.  Family feuds, secret love affairs, backstabbing, near-death experiences, undercover hideaways … this reality-show style docu-drama has had it all over the past three seasons.

Even after just one viewing—and being irresistibly drawn in by the stellar wildlife photography technology and the low-key-yet-compelling narration by Sean Astin—it’s easy to see why Meerkat Manor has been embraced by all ages and nominated for an Emmy Award.

This coming Sunday night, May 25, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT, in efforts to show you what it took for the Whiskers to become the “first family” and before the return of the fourth season, Animal Planet will take a look back on the life of Flower, who sadly met her demise during last season. 

Titled Meerkat Manor:  The Story Begins, this 90-minute film chronicles a seven-month period of Flower’s life, showing her growth from inexperienced, young meerkat to “first lady” of the Whiskers.  The retrospective is hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and debuted earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival

On the following Sunday, June 6, 2008,  at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, Animal Planet will premiere season four of the Meerkat Manor series.  Daughters Rocket Dog and Maybelline are now living in the aftermath of their mother’s death and have fought for power as the top “kat” in the Whiskers clan.  Rocket Dog eventually won out, but Maybelline wasn’t so cool about staying in her sister’s shadow in the same clan.  So she invented her own wheel, so to speak, and began a rival mob—the Aztecs. 

Thanks to these squabbling siblings, the family has been divided (can you relate?), and this season will follow along as the sisters have to learn to live in close proximity while (hopefully) working through their familial spat.

The same usual threats still abound (predators, harsh desert weather and archenemies/rival mob, the Commandos), so I’m sure Meerkat Manor’s fourth time out will continue to make for a good TV-PG, family drama/soap-opera alternative. 

And that's good to note … especially if you’re as tired of Brothers & Sisters or Desperate Housewives as I am.


For more information about Meerkat Manor:  The Story Begins or the fourth season of Meerkat Manor, please click here.