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THE TV COLUMN

Dovish explores historic Bayou Bartholomew

By Michael Storey

This article was published March 14, 2013 at 2:16 a.m.

AETN viewers know they’re in for a treat when Chuck Dovish is turned loose for an hour special.

The latest treat: Bayou Bartholomew. The documentary will premiere at 6:30 p.m. today.

The 59-year-old Dovish, host of AETN’s Exploring Arkansas, has been showcasing the state’s natural wonders and adventure for more than three decades.

We first came to love his folksy approach on KTHV, Channel 11, where the Ohio native hosted the popular Travelin’ Arkansas for more than 25 years. The Channel 11 job was Dovish’s first after he graduated from Chicago’s Columbia College.

In 2002, KTHV decided it no longer needed such a folksy feature and let Dovish go. Fortunately for us, he eventually wound up on AETN in 2005, and “Travelin’” morphed into “Exploring.” Different name; same great stuff.

Exploring Arkansas, which airs at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and encores at 5 p.m. Sundays, features the Natural State at its finest. The segments have included hang gliding, kayaking, rappelling,rock climbing, wild caving and numerous scenic trails and waterfalls.

Each episode is a picture postcard to ourselves.

“Even when I was doing the Travelin’ Arkansas segments,” Dovish said in a previous interview, “my whole deal was to get the good word about Arkansas out to the people. In the newscasts all you hear is the bad side of everything, but my philosophy is we live in such a wonderful state that I wanted to let people know of the action and adventure they can get involved in.

“I always felt I was born in the wrong location. I’ve always had this deep and abiding love for the South. I guess it’s the way of life here and the people. In Southern states, especially in Arkansas, people know what lifeshould be all about.”

And life doesn’t get more Southern than along southeast Arkansas’ Bayou Bartholomew. At 359 miles, it’s the world’s longest bayou.

The waterway begins in a fern-laden area behind a farm near Pine Bluff, and continues all the way to Sterlington, La., where it empties into the Ouachita River.

Dovish says, “This bayou has long been overlooked and neglected in state and in American history for its contribution in developing the heart of the Delta. In the documentary, people who’ve lived along the bayou all their lives will tell their stories - going back to the steamboat days.”

The special also will showcase how the bayou is one of the top streams in North America for biodiversity. It contains 117 species of fish, 50 species of musselsand 197 bird species.

“We also floated a portion of it in Arkansas and in Louisiana in a traditional Cajun-style wooden pirogue,” Dovish adds. “The purpose of this documentary is to enlighten people about Bayou Bartholomew’s importance from a historical standpointand a conservationist point of view. Louisiana’s 90-mile section has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River, but in Arkansas that’s not the case because of the poor water quality.”

Curtis Merrell of Monticello, president of the Bayou Bartholomew Alliance, hopes the bayou will get the state protection status that Louisiana has achieved: “We want to tell the people of Arkansas first, and then the nation, and then the world about this magnificent stream and the history of it.”

Bayou Bartholomew is sponsored by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The special encores at 4 p.m. April 7, and 1 a.m. April 24.

Family friendly. Cable’s Hallmark Channel has an alternative for Friday nights - family movie night. First up at 7 p.m. Friday is Return to Nim’s Island starring 14-yearold Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin of Animal Planet.

Future films in the new Walden Family Theater series will include Space Warriors in May and other filmsfrom the Hallmark Channel library.

Heidi ho. In case you missed the latest news, Project Runway’s ice queen host Heidi Klum will join the panel as the fourth judge when America’s Got Talent returns to NBC this summer. She’ll be alongside Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and the other new judge, Melanie Brown of Spice Girls fame.

Last season NBC shelled out a reported $20 million to lure Stern as a judge. Ratings fell. The network solution? Add a fourth judge. Why not five?

Pampered pets. Mark your calendars, pet lovers. Cable’s Nat Geo Wild channel will unveil Spoiled Rotten Pets at 9 p.m. April 20. The new series, with host Beth Stern, will feature owners and their royally pampered pets. First up: two potbellied pigs that go to a pet pig spa; a family with more than 100 reptiles (from pythons to crocodiles) and a Maltese Yorkie that attends “pup scout” meetings in New York.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. E-mail:

Weekend, Pages 34 on 03/14/2013

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