Picks and Pans Review: Queen of the Beasts

updated 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Wed., Aug. 30, 8 P.M. ET)

B+

It seems the women's movement has hit the animal kingdom, too. This special about lions focuses on the fact that it's the female of the species who has always been the real ruler of the jungle. Females spend their entire lives in prides with other lionesses, who pitch in to raise the young and hunt for food. Male lions, on the other paw, spend only two years in a pride before heading out to become somebody else's mane man.

This fascinating documentary, narrated by Lindsay Wagner, offers theories as to why the pride exists—why lions, unlike other big cats, developed a complex social system. Did you know males band together for hostile takeovers of other prides? After booting out existing management, they streamline the organization by chasing away its weaker members.

Filmed in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, the special features extraordinary footage of lions at work, play and dinner. There is a devastating sequence in which a male lion, having taken over a pride, kills a female's cubs so she'll quit nursing them and mate with him. Within 24 hours all is forgiven as she flirts with her aggressive new mate. That kind of behavior can only get her a booking on Geraldo.

The special focuses on the work of researchers Craig Packer, Anne Pusey and Dave Scheel, who spent 2½ years in the Serengeti recording the activities of hundreds of lions. If nothing else, their findings prove that male chauvinists, even in the cat world, can be beasts.

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