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Archive for Wednesday, April 18, 2012

‘River of No Return’ captures a year in the wild

April 18, 2012

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Is a year camping in the wilderness a “honeymoon” or a prison sentence? Viewers can come to their own conclusions while savoring the lovely scenery and wonderful photography in the “Nature” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presentation of “River of No Return.” After the broadcast, viewers can also find this presentation at pbs.org/nature.

Isaac Babcock has a unique job. He’s the resident wolf biologist for the Nez Perce Tribe in central Idaho. And after 13 years of tracking, tagging and studying the animals, he’s decided to embed himself in their habitat by spending a year in the vast Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, an Idaho park larger than Yellowstone and the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 states.

He decides to bring his young wife, Bjornen, along to study the life cycles and death struggles of wolves, otters, elk, birds and salmon found in this gorgeously rugged environment. Isaac calls it their “honeymoon.”

The couple and their intimate engagement with nature become part of the film’s story. Bjornen may be a good sport, but her emerging problems with arthritis threaten to curtail their adventure. Their voices provide the film’s narration, and while this addition is central to the film’s intimate power, it contributes to its limitations.

They aren’t professional writers or performers, and some of their observations seem less than well-crafted. Their voices are neither authoritative nor entertaining.

• Chloe Sevigny guest-stars on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC), where it’s difficult to differentiate truth from illusion.

The “Big Love” star portrays the Upper East Side wife of a hedge fund manager (Rich Sommer, “Mad Men”), who looks on in horror as she is attacked and apparently raped while chatting with her on a video conference call from an airport in faraway Hong Kong.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Finalists compete on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Jay meets Cameron’s dad (Barry Corbin) on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• “NOVA” (8 p.m., PBS) examines why ships sink.

• One brain too many on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Daniel’s doubts loom large on “Revenge” (9 p.m., ABC).

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