Writer, producer, and television host Lucy Cooke has made television programs for NatGeo, Discovery (and affiliated Animal Planet), BBC, and more, on the topics of history, architechture and nature. Impressively, early this year, Lucy was named a National Geographic Explorer, an elite group of the intrepid who manage to inspire the rest of us to care about the planet.
You might be familiar with Lucy from her recent wildly popular show for Animal Planet, "Too Cute Baby Sloths" which I've covered here on SciAm previously.
Lucy was trained as a zoologist under evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. With such an impressive mentor, it is not surprising that Lucy says, "Evolution is my Religion" when asked about what inspires her larger goals in the types of TV shows she really wants to create. She aspires to find a way to share evolution to the general public through the unusual adaptations of nature's freaks, weirdos, and oddballs.
Check out the first episode of "Freaks & Creeps" on NatGeo Wild. This one is called "Devil Island, World's Weirdest Penis". In it, Lucy is on a hunt for the world's weirdest penis and the Echidna named Grumpy has got the goods. It premieres Tuesday, July 17, 10pm ET/PT
Her love of unsung and unusual creatures of the world began several years ago when she realized that the amphibians of the world were in a huge crisis. She showcased them at her blog, The Amphibian Avenger. Her work subsequently caught the eye of some important people at National Geographic.
When NatGeo contacted her and asked, "If you were able to produce a TV series, what would it be about?", Lucy knew this was her opportunity to launch her campaign to save the "ugly" and "weird" animals of the world rather than showcase the charismatic species that usually receive so much attention. Pandas and baby seals, step aside. She wanted stories about the animals that don't hit the headlines. She chooses her unusual creatures because they represent instances where evolution is at play in those who have unique characteristics that allow them to adapt and survive.
In addition, she wanted her dream show to feature the scientists who study these unusual creatures because it is their passion for the animals that is keeping them alive. In a way, they are unsung scientists working for unsung creatures. In the program, we see that the scientists are geeky, smart, fun, and often have a great sense of humor, which I assume you must have if you work with dung beetles for a living, for instance.
"Freaks and Creeps" features Lucy as the host of the program, traipsing through the jungle or savannah or wherever she had to go to find the most unusual creatures. She does it sans stylist and without multiple takes. She keeps the tone fun and lively, hoping that her humor, casual style, and the charm of the creatures will win you over. If the audience learns a thing or two about how evolution has shaped ecology, all the better.
Enjoy one more peek at "Freaks and Creeps" where Lucy and Jeff collect roadkill and use it to attract Tasmanian Devils.
You can find more of Lucy's unusual animals in her video blog at NatGeoWild HERE
Here is a summary of the premiere episodes as provide by NatGeo Wild, links go to the episode trailers.
Tuesday, July 17, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Lucy Cooke loves the animals that the rest of us don’t think twice about. She’s off to a remote Australian island—Tasmania—to determine which animal deserves the title “ultimate weirdo.” The competition is fierce: With a face like a retired boxer and a scream to send chills down her spine, the scrappy Tasmanian devil seems to be a prime contender. Also on the ballot, a spiny, termite-eating, egg-laying mammal with a four-headed penis called the echidna. And how about an animal with a bill like a duck, body of a mammal and defense system like a reptile for top billing?
Tuesday, July 24, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Lucy Cooke is on a one-woman mission to show why the ugly, weird and overlooked animals of the world can be cute, cuddly and deserving of attention. Join her as she heads off to the rain forests of Borneo. Borneo is its own crucible of weirdness, with countless strange creatures. Lucy’s goal is get up close with the giant-nosed proboscis monkey to figure out why this creature’s most prominent features are so exaggerated. Along the way, she finds many other “odd ones”—animals that have come up with all kinds of strange adaptations so they can survive in the forest of Borneo. Lucy finds dung beetles in action eating dung; frogs that fly; a tarsier, member of the primates family, with eyes that are bigger than its brain; and the woolly bat that makes its home in a carnivorous plant.
Tuesday, July 31, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Typically, South Africa is known for the Big Five: lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and rhinos. But not for Lucy Cooke, advocate and avenger for the lesser-known and unloved animals of the world. Lucy’s on a hunt for the more enigmatic Freaky Five: Hannibal Lecter-like vultures, sungazer girdled lizards, golden-brown baboon tarantulas, smelly and sticky ground pangolins, and dangerously intelligent chacma baboons. Mystical and mysterious, these five animals represent a side of South African culture that both the tourists and conservation donors often overlook.
Join Lucy to help love the unloveable of the animal world. Tune in starting tomorrow night!