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TV Review: River Monsters – “Legend of Loch Ness” and “Vampire of the Deep”

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Jeremy Wade

Jeremy Wade fishing in Iceland. (Animal Planet)

Author, biologist, and angler, Jeremy Wade has gone fishing  in some of the world’s most obscure and treacherous waters. With a rich baritone and features that resemble a controlled version of Klaus Kinski, it’s only natural that Wade added television personality to his resume, appearing on BBC since the in the 1990s. In 2009, he established a presence on American airwaves with the Animal Planet series River Monsters.  On his weekly adventures, Wade seeks out some of the most dangerous creatures of the sea, struggling to capture them but treating them with fascination and respect and even a bit of affection, caressing their seemingly alien hides before releasing them back into the underwater wild. Since his series began, Wade has caught and released dozens of fascinatingly obscure specimens. But this season’s finale took on one of the most famous of all sea serpents. The Loch Ness Monster.

A cryptozoological myth? Yes, but. Wade believes that behind every legend there is a grain of truth, and he sets off for the cold fresh waters of Scotland to find out what it is that has captured the imagination of the thousands who claim to have caught sight of Nessie. Wherever Wade travels, he works to build genuine relationships with locals, and it’s from the loch locals he gains an important insight. The iconic looping monsters famously “caught” on film and in our imaginations are not the kind of monsters that local loch watchers see. It is a solid, single-humped mass slithering in the lake.

Wade looks at other possibilities before turning his skills to the water. The nature of the loch is that when vessels pass through, they often leave a solid wake that from a distance can resemble a multi-humped creature, and due to the 22-mile length of the loch, these shapely, provocative wakes can be seen long after the ship that caused it has moved on.

This wouldn’t be River Monsters without sea creatures, and Wade finds them. More typical of Wade’s programs is the Monster Week showcase “Vampire of the Deep.” Its sensational title masks an ultimately sensitive approach to the tubular bloodsuckers known as lampreys. This show took Wade from the exotic waters of rural Vermont to an Oregon waterfall, where Wade works with Native Americans who view the lampreys as underwater spirits. River Monsters is a cash cow for Animal Planet, but Wade’s show is a step above attention-grabbing programs like Mermaids: The New Evidence. This extreme fisherman backs up showmanship with science.

River Monsters: Legend of Loch Ness premiered on Animal Planet on May 27, 2013, and is not currently scheduled for a repeat. You can watch River Monsters: “Vampire of the Deep” on Animal Planet June 18th at 7:00 pm ET. Check Animal Planet’s online schedule for information on more episodes of River Monsters.

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.