Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer

Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer debuts tonight on Animal Planet at 8 p.m. Eastern.

As a warning, skunk aficionados might be disheartened to learn that the first episode of Animal Planet's Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer features exactly zero skunks. There are plenty of critters to fill up the screen, though.

The show follows former Army Reservist Bruha and his team as they "get wildlife out and keep wildlife out" without trapping or killing, which means they're the fellas you call when you find a snarling, baby raccoon hiding in the wheel well of your car or hear mysterious scurrying in the attic. Bruha is an ideal guide into the world of animal retrieval, too: He's got the look of a stern cop with a bald head, rigid posture, and crisp Skunk Whisperer uniform, which he believes to be a necessary part of professional presentation.

Bruha's small, Tulsa-based staff consists of Chris, who has a monstrous handlebar moustache, Stormy, who is the company's number two man, and a smiling, quiet gent named Johnny. The three meet in the morning at a restaurant to discuss the day's assignments and kick things off nicely when Stormy unzips his official Skunk Whisperer company jacket to reveal a sexy, bikini lady t-shirt. The point is only to make the gang guffaw and, according to Stormy, fluster ol' Bruha. It does. Also, it sets the tone of the show nicely and makes it clear the Whisperer and his men don't take themselves too seriously.

That playfulness continues throughout the show, as when Stormy is sent out to check out the aforementioned attic scurrying. He finds no animals up there but does spot some fresh feces. Because he can't identify the animal it came from, he gets on the horn with Bruha and describes the poop in mind-boggling detail. Also, according to Stormy, "it wasn't like a normal attic feces," which means something. He and Ned go over the texture, color, consistency, smell, and length of the poop, even bringing out a measuring tape to be accurate. Eventually, they realize the heavy ammonia smell means it can only be cat poop and the case is solved! It turns out the family cat has been using the attic as a second litter box, after all.

Meanwhile, Ned has a more high-stakes situation on his hands, which is that a woman has found a young owl hanging upside-down from a tree in her backyard, flapping its wings in distress. Ned is fascinating to watch as immediately shifts into Whisperer mode. He ascends a ladder he props up against the tree and begins narrating what's happening in vivid detail. As the helpless, little owl squrims to get its talons free, Ned realizes his owl brothers and sisters are also up there, in a little nest built into the tree's nook. Meanwhile, Mom owl turns up in the midst, hovering angrily overhead, while Ned tries to free the little bird. He then realizes the little one's leg is injured and must decide whether to leave him to heal in the nest or separate the baby from its mom in order to get him to a vet.

Eventually, he opts to bring the young bird to his animal rehabilitator after seeing the extent of his injured leg. Once there, Rondi the rehabilitator tells Ned he made the right choice because the little guy would've surely died if left in the nest with his mom. They'll begin treatment on his leg and have him healed up soon. It's a happy ending for upside-down owl!

The guys decide to toast to another wild day of work with beers at the local bar. There, they engage in some smack talk about who might be the best at the mechanical bull and then, naturally, it's time to compete. Well, well, well. It turns out Ned is a champion at it and can somehow even stand up while it rocks and rolls, like some kind of mechanical bull surfer. So while there may not have been any actual skunk whispering in the debut episode, the combination of owl-mama drama, a man named Stormy, the world's biggest handlebar mustache, and mechanical bull surfing is a pretty great one. 

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