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In Movies & TV Commentary

Kenosha's Matt Smith is part of the fourth season of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars."

OnMedia: From Kenosha to the front lines in "Whale Wars"


Kenosha's Matt Smith works as an operating engineer. It's a good, full-time job - when there's work.

But with the economy being the way it has been the past couple years, the 34-year-old Smith takes advantage of some extra time to work on his passion. And you can see his efforts starting at 8 p.m. Friday as the latest season of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" launches.

A native of Ohio who spent part of his life in Illinois before moving to Wisconsin 11 years ago, Smith has seen much of the world. And fighting to save the whales isn't just a slogan for him.

He spent time in the military, joining the U.S. Army just out of high school, and it taught him some lessons.

"I saw how we treat each other," he told me in a phone conversation. "If we do this to ourselves, what exactly do we do to the other species on Earth?"

Smith started volunteering for the cause and was soon recruited by Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the group that is the focus of "Whale Wars" over the past three seasons in its battle against the whaling industry.

In this season, Smith is a deck hand and crane operator on a new addition to the Sea Shepherd fleet, the Bob Barker - named after the retired "Price is Right" host and animal rights activist who is a donor to Sea Shepherd.

Smith noted that his participation in the show has the full support of his wife, Erin, in Kenosha, the "backbone" of the family, (which includes Aidan, just about to turn seven years old.)

"Somehow, we make it work," he said.

As for living out his passion in front of the "Whale Wars" cameras, Smith said, "I'm not a hypocrite. I am a vegan, I practice, what I preach, what you see is what you get."

But he admits that those cameras were rolling all the time.

"Sometimes they put stuff on air that we wish they would not. I fell down the stairs, cracked my head open. That's probably going to be on the show."

But even the embarrassment of that ship-board tumble helps Smith spread his message.

"I really don't care how I look on television," Smith told me. "It's just about the whales."

Here's Animal Planet's promo for the fourth season of "Whale Wars":

Passing the baton: National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard has posted her final take on the public broadcaster, finishing her two-year term in the job with some praise:

"NPR is a vibrant, growing news organization that speaks with a strong voice, authenticity and authority. Could it be better? Absolutely. But, overall, the journalism is still very good."

She's being replaced by Edward Schumacher-Matos, who has been ombudsman at the Miami Herald.

On TV: It's a long way off, but NBC has already announced it will follow the Feb. 5 airing of Super Bowl XLVI with an hour of "The Voice." Plan accordingly.

  • AMC says the fourth season of "Breaking Bad" will launch July 17 in the 9 p.m. Sunday slot.
  • Syfy has ordered an eighth season of "Ghost Hunters."
  • Alec Baldwin is the latest celeb to join Twitter. His premiere effort: "My first tweet. Maybe I needed a glass of wine beforehand. I feel....so shy."

A summer show for "Gleeks": Yes, the season of Fox's "Glee" is done, but Oxygen has a summer "reality" show, "The Glee Project," as a way to draw in the show's audience. It starts June 12 in the 8 p.m. Sunday slot, as finalists compete for a spot on the real show.

Here's a preview:

Talkbacks

tommcmahon | June 2, 2011 at 4:16 p.m. (report)

"NPR is a vibrant, growing news organization that speaks with a strong voice, authenticity and authority." After the Juan Williams fiasco? Sounds like Alicia Shepard is just another NPR toady in an ocean filled with them.

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