The best of June TV: D-Day, Morgan Freeman and man's best friend
Who says there's nothing on during the summer? June is ripe with watchable TV.
Fri, May 30, 2014 at 09:08 AM
Charlie Tucker from the History series "Mountain Men." The new season begins on June 1. (Photo: Nels Israelson/History)
There's much to enjoy on the tube this month. Here are some highlights:
• It's no laughing matter when a hyena goes missing from her Namibian habitat, and expert Ingrid Wiesel tries to find her in the Nat Geo Wild special "Hyena Coast," premiering on June 1.
• To mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, Smithsonian Channel will premiere the documentary "America's Secret D-Day Disaster" on June 1, detailing what went wrong and why a pre-invasion training exercise that went horribly awry, killing nearly 700 American soldiers. On June 4, National Geographic's special "D-Day Sacrifice" uses testimonies and archival footage to comprehensively tell the story behind the massive secret operation.
• "Mountain Men" returns to History Channel for its third season on June 1, following the lives of intrepid pioneers who live off the grid in harsh wilderness environments from Montana and New Mexico and Alaska to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Maine's Great North Woods.
The cast of Weather Channel's "Catching Hell." (Photo: Weather Channel)
• The latest in a long line of tough-job fishing shows, "Catching Hell" demonstrates that the waters of the Gulf of Mexico can be just as dangerous as the Bering Sea; spear fisherman contend with sharks, limited air, poor visibility, 'the bends' and ferocious storms when diving for their catches. Premiering on June 1, the Weather Channel series follows three crews as they face danger in diving for their livelihood.
• Today, more than 400,000 Americans live off the grid, generating their own power and living a sustainable, survivalist lifestyle. Eight of them are the focus of the Sportsman Channel's new series "America Unplugged," which chronicles how they do it and why. Hosted by ex-Navy SEAL Cade Courtley, it premieres on June 5.
• The wildlife of South America's largest country is the subject of Discovery Channel's "Wild Brazil," a two-hour special airing June 7 that focuses on families of capuchin monkeys, giant otters and coatis as they fight to survive.
• Giving new meaning to the term Cold War, a crew comprised of Americans and Russians fight temperatures of minus 40 degrees, packs of wolves, and each other to toil for two months in a Siberian logging venture worth half a million dollars. "Siberian Cut" premieres on Discovery Channel on June 3.
• Back for its fifth season on Science Channel on June 4, "Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman" explores such provocative topics as the genetics of poverty, the vulnerability of superpowers, the real dangers of zombies and the birth of time.
• The new Nat Geo Wild series "Animals Gone Wild" premieres on June 6 with "Surprisingly Human," an epsiode all about creature encounters with humans and each other. Vignettes run the gamut from the heartwarming rescues of a kitten, a duck and a dolphin to amusing scenes of lizards waving hello to horrifying footage of orcas chasing a boat or a hawk snatching a baby bunny. The clip above shows how craftily camouflaged octopuses snag sharks.
• Could people actually get away with smuggling birds, monkeys, turtles and other exotic animals into the United States, not only endangering the creatures, but potentially spreading disease? Sadly, this black market trade is thriving, but diligent federal agents are catching more of these crooks than ever, and some of their success stories are the subject of the Nat Geo Wild special "Busted! Animal Smugglers," airing June 6.
• The title may sound cataclysmic, but "Crocpocalypse" is about a very real and dire problem: the growing crocodile population in Florida that's threatening humans, as the clip above shows. Airing June 8, the Nat Geo Wild special follows experts imported from Australia as they capture and relocate the encroaching crocs.
• Actor (of Monty Python fame), writer and travel documentarian Michael Palin travels to the Amazon to explore the places, people and culture of Brazil in the four-hour special "Brazil With Michael Palin," airing on PBS on June 9 and 10.
A duo of dogs from the Nat Geo Wild special "Wonder of Dogs." (Photo: Chris Baines/Windfall Films Ltd.)
• Celebrating man's best friend, the three-part Nat Geo Wild special "Wonder of Dogs" airs June 14 and kicks off with "All Shapes and Sizes," which explains how dogs evolved from wolves and were bred for specific characteristics and purposes, resulting in the incredible canine diversity we have today.
• Modern camera equipment and techniques allow nature documentarians to capture more spectacular, close-up, intimate footage than ever before and in the most remote, inaccessible places. The results are on view in the three-part Nat Geo Wild special "Secrets of the Wild," which airs June 15. The first hour turns a lens on the wildlife of open spaces like the African plains, Yellowstone in winter, and the frozen Arctic, moving to forests and mountains in the second and the oceans in the third, with the daily fight for survival common to all.
• A sequel to "Inside Combat Rescue," National Geographic's "Inside Combat Rescue: The Last Stand" returns to Afghanistan for a two-hour special that presents the final stages of the war from the perspective of the military men and women on the front lines. It premieres June 15.
• Sharks may be feared alpha predators, but with dwindling populations from illegal fishing and finning, they need our protection. Activist Madison Stewart has made it her mission to raise awareness of sharks' plight and their importance to the undersea ecosystem, correct misperceptions, and save the species from extinction. Her efforts are the subject of the Smithsonian Channel documentary "Shark Girl," which premieres on June 15.
Pool designer Anthony Archer-Wills on the Animal Planet series "The Pool Master." (Photo: Animal Planet)
• Designing swimming pools that incorporate natural materials and environmental features, Anthony Archer-Wills is "The Pool Master," and his projects are the subject of an Animal Planet series beginning June 20. In the premiere, he creates an edible garden backyard oasis for a family-owned organic restaurant in Ojai, California.
• Below the streets of bustling London is hidden world of caves, catacombs, rivers, bunkers, tunnels and artifacts spanning 2000 years of history, and they're uncovered in "Secrets of Underground London," premiering June 22 on PBS.
• Insects may bug us, but they're also pretty fascinating, and Nat Geo Wild's three-hour "Destination Wild" celebration of all things entomological may give you a new appreciation of them. Airing June 22, the special Bug Event kicks off with "Ant Empire," segues to "Dragonfly," and finishes with "Big Bad Bugs," getting up close with a wide array of beetles, bees, butterflies, and the billions of other insects with which we share the planet — and rely on for its survival.
A scene from the Nat Geo documentary "Mircale Landing on the Hudson" about the U.S. Airways 1549 fight and its watery landing. (Photo: Stuart Freedman/National Geographic Channels)
• Most of us know the story of U.S. Airways 1549 and the improbable water landing that saved all aboard on Jan. 15, 2009, thanks to the actions of pilot Sully Sullenberger. The heroic pilot is not the focus of Nat Geo’s two-hour documentary "Miracle Landing on the Hudson," which instead recreates the events moment by moment through reenactments and interviews with passengers, crew and ground personnel. It premieres on June 22.
• Sir David Attenborough explains everything you ever wanted to know about Miss Piggy’s favorite amphibian in the PBS "Nature" special "Fabulous Frogs," premiering June 25.
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