What made Oliver so unusual? Well, in addition to a human-like nose and walking upright most the time, he was a pariah among other chimpanzees and preferred to live with his human owners, even going so far as to enjoy a nightcap before bedtime and helping with chores around the house. Not to mention that once he got to sexual maturity he started to put the moves on his owner’s wife…but you’ll find out more about that on the show.
Anybody who thought Zira had a little crush on astronaut Taylor in Planet of the Apes will no doubt sympathize with Oliver’s plight. It doesn’t get much more creepy/titillating than the possibility of humans breeding with chimpanzees, and even though chromosonal evidence came in suggesting that Oliver was merely -- but genuinely -- an incredible mutant (as least behaviorally), yet an ape after all, it still doesn’t make the story of this unusual and haunting creature any less compelling.
Humanzee airs at 9pm eastern time, and repeats several more times tonight and later (check the schedule here.) Oliver is a genuine celebrity in primate circles; there are lots of webpages with great Oliver information, including this sort of sensationalistic but terrific one from Rotten.com, the whole Oliver saga and his current situation in this great article, and then there's also this detailed version of his life. Oliver also has his own adorable and hilarious page on MySpace, written by someone who obviously knows his stuff and has a terrific sense of humor--be sure to check out Oliver's favorite movies!
For those of you who find this subject matter intriguing, the BBC did a fascinating miniseries in 1988 entitled First Born, which touched on some of the same scientific principles in Oliver's story. Starring Charles Dance (you may remember him from his villainous role as Mr. Tulkinghorn in the great production of Bleak House which ran on PBS a couple of years ago), First Born was about a scientist monkeying about with a human/gorilla hybrid experiment. It's just been released on DVD in the UK, and I'd highly recommend it.
There's just something special about Oliver and I think you'll agree after you watch Humanzee. Enjoy!