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PBS airs three programs about animals

Host Neil Shubin of "Your Inner Fish," a

Host Neil Shubin of "Your Inner Fish," a three-part documentary PBS series that examines the evolution of the human body. It debuts Wednesday, April 9, 2014 on PBS. Credit: AP / Nathaniel Chadwick, Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

PREMIERE NIGHT PBS' new Think Wednesday block begins with "My Bionic Pet" (on "Nature") and three weeks of "Inside Animal Minds" (on "Nova"), plus a three-week docuseries "Your Inner Fish"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night from 8-11 on PBS/13

WHAT THEY'RE ABOUT We're animals, after all. Fish, birds, reptiles, dogs, even humans, part of the same family tree. Watch it grow in tonight's trio of eye-openers, mindblowers and tearjerkers, kicking off PBS' weekly Think Wednesday "nature, science and technology" block.

"My Bionic Pet" joins those facets in a cool "Nature" hour told first-person and narration-free. "We have the technology," says an OrthoPets prosthetist, as we meet 6 million golden retrievers, ponies and adorable pig-with-wheels Chris P. Bacon. Animal experts "think outside the box," using cutoff soda bottles to anesthetize a swan that needs an acrylic beak, building an alligator a prosthetic tail and (you'll get teary) setting loose a border collie to run on fabricated legs. "These animals aren't property, like couches," says a professor of evolutional biology. "They are sentient beings who have a right to a full and rich life," rebutting those who wonder whether animals rate this treatment before people in need. It's a personal hour that stirs your heart, your brain, your soul.

The "Nova" miniseries "Inside Animal Minds" goes on to explore "animals doing things we once thought were strictly human." Crows solve logic problems, and bees share food sources through a sort of GPS "waggle dance." Tonight's "Bird Genius" hour ("Dogs and Super Senses" comes next week) is a letdown after all that "Bionic" bounce. Its dry narration, bland experts and less-relatable animals tend to obscure its potentially intriguing info.

But "Your Inner Fish" picks up the pace with engaging host Neil Shubin, who teaches human anatomy despite being a fish paleontologist (and author of the same-name bestseller). In his first of three weekly hours, Shubin treks the Arctic, digging for skeletons to show how fish, as the planet's first bony creatures with skulls, seeded the family tree that evolved over millions of years into humans. He dynamically branches off into enlightening animation, nifty microscope video and meeting people with gills. He even seems to circle back to the night's start. Take note, animal-prosthetic skeptics: "Some of the best road maps to our own bodies are seen in other creatures."

BOTTOM LINE Feeling nostalgic for an age of exploration and adventure? It's here now -- jump in tonight.

GRADE In order, A; B-; A

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