Spy in the Wild

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Spy in the Wild TV Poster Image
Animatronic animals collect secret wildlife footage in docu.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

Parents and kids alike will learn a lot about various types of animals and how they behave.

Positive Messages

Watching and learning about animals and their capacity for emotion can be really eye-opening.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the animals couldn't really be considered "role models", in the last episode we meet the team behind the development and deployment of the "spy creatures", and find out about the innovation and hard work that went into making the show.

Violence & Scariness

Nothing major, but sensitive little kids might be upset by certain scenes, such as a hungry crane who wants to swoop in and eat some baby crocodile hatchlings. There are some monkeys who behave rambunctiously and mistakenly believe they've "killed" the robot monkey camera that's been filming them.

Sexy Stuff

A couple of meerkats get a little frisky, it's very brief. There's an amorous tortoise who attempts to mate with the spy tortoise; it's played for laughs. Nothing graphic.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spy in the Wild is a five-part documentary series that uses specially built "spy creatures" to glean a closer look at the emotional lives of various animals. Over 30 highly realistic-looking animatronic animals attempt to ingratiate themselves into real life animal families -- including elephants, otters, dolphins, and wolves -- while the high-tech cameras hidden inside of them are recording every moment. There's a whole lot to say "awwww!" about in this series, but occasionally the animals do get mad at each other and will fight. There's no out-and-out bloodshed, however. There are a few, er, romantic moments; but it's nothing explicit.

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What's the story?

Spy in the Wild is an innovative nature series that uses high-tech animatronic animals with built-in cameras to get up close and personal with over 30 different animal families across the globe. The filmmakers seek to show us how these animals display their intellect and their emotions, and break the episodes up into themes: Love, Intelligence, Friendship, and Bad Behavior. The "hidden in plain sight" conceit of the show provides some unusual vantage points (ever seen nature footage shot from inside a crocodile mom's mouth?), and a wide variety of animals are included.

Is it any good?

Watching to see if a robot meerkat will be accepted by real meerkats could have veered into overly-cute territory; but thankfully, this unconventional filming approach has provided some genuinely intimate images that elevate it beyond a mere gimmick. Some of the animatronics are more convincing than others, to be sure. There are some chimps who are quick to raise a skeptical eyebrow at the "spy creature" deployed to film them, and they soon turn it into a pet of sorts. But when the conceit works, it really works. In some cases, these robo-animals get close enough to see swarms of bugs nestled into a real sloth's fur -- and one even becomes an ill-fated love interest for an impassioned tortoise. Overall, Spy in the Wild does a great job at showing us how surprisingly relatable animals can be, and how they are capable of unexpected depths of emotion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their favorite animal family from the series. Did it surprise you how smart these animals could be? In what ways, if any, do animals act like humans? How do they show emotion?

  • How does the footage on this show vary from that of other nature shows? Did disguising their cameras as animals help the filmmakers get different footage than they might have been able to otherwise? Would the "spy creatures" have fooled you?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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