April 23, 2007

Discover Planet Earth From the Comfort of Your Own Home


Earth Day has come and gone—ours was marked by a massive spring cleaning, which brought many new green housecleaning discoveries. But that icon of edutainment, the Discovery Channel, celebrated differently, by airing a marathon of their new series, Planet Earth. If your officemates are more interested in discussing the Sopranos over the bubbler every Monday, you might not realize that this documentary series is one of the most striking nature shows ever filmed.

Producers and their crew sometimes spent months on a given shot, creeping and hiding to capture many scenes that have never actually been recorded for broadcast. You'll meet animals you've never seen before, view arial shots that make your heartbeat skip and, hopefully, be truly moved by the interconnected nature of the plant and animal species that keep this ball breathing.

My only criticism of the series is the writing. Powerfully narrated by Sigourney Weaver, even she can't elevate the typical, often trite text to anything that comes close to matching the images on screen. That said, the focus is clearly those images: the intense blues and greens and fiery oranges; the textures of sand, sea and scales; the bizarre and yet familiar behavior of species we may never have seen before. I can't even imagine what this program looks like viewed on HDTV.

The final episode, featuring the filmmakers' story, will air this Sunday, April 29. But Discovery will most likely air reruns, and you can purchase the entire series on DVD.

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