If you liked Planet Earth, you should probably check out Nature’s Great Events. Narrated by David Attenborough and currently airing in the UK on BBC1 and BBC HD, the series consists of six 50-minute shows, each of which features a large-scale annual event, like the spring thaw in the Arctic Circle and the sardine run along the coast of South Africa. The series was shot in HD using many of the techniques seen in Planet Earth.
If you’re in the UK, you can check out the first three episodes on the BBC site. In the US, Discovery will be airing the show sometime in the spring under the title Seasons of Survival (apparently Nature’s Great Events isn’t dramatic enough for the American audience). No word on whether Attenborough’s expert narration will also be replaced as it was in Planet Earth.
What with the newborn taking up much of my days, I didn’t have too much time to watch TV this summer. I did catch a few shows, however.
Ninja Warrior. This is my new favorite show to truly zone out to. It’s an obstacle course competition program from Japan called Sasuke, repackaged by the G4 network for an American audience. This YouTube video — featuring my favorite Ninja Warrior competitor, fisherman Makoto Nagano — should provide you with a decent taste of the show. Wikipedia has more information than you probably want to know about the program. Time/place: G4, all hours of the day (but officially 6pm & 10pm ET).
Deadwood, season one. Finally got around to checking this out after many recommendations from friends. Big fan so far, through 10 episodes. Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen is one of the best TV characters in recent memory. Aside from the obvious — Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Deadwood itself — I was surprised to learn that many of the characters, events, and establishments in the show actually existed and took place, including Swearengen, E.B., and the Gem. I imagine there’s an extensive discussion on the web somewhere about how much the show deviates from recorded history, but I’m staying away for now for fear of spoilers, having already made the mistake of learning of Wild Bill’s story arc in a book about the Wild West. Time/place: HBO2 is currently rerunning season one at 8pm ET. Also available on DVD, anytime.
The Wire, seasons one, two, and three. Everyone dogs on season two of The Wire (relatively speaking), but after a second viewing, it’s right up there with one and three for me. Collectively the best program ever shown on TV, case closed, next topic, I’m not even gonna discuss that with you. G.O.A.T. However, up for debate: despite being everyone’s favorite character on the show (but not mine), Omar Little is actually the least realistic character on a show defined by its realism. A gay thief/killer/felon who doesn’t swear and adheres to a personal code of conduct? Come on! Time/place: BET is showing episodes of season three on Thursdays at 9:30pm ET, but edited for content and with commercials. Which is like viewing Titian’s nudes with all the naughty bits pixelated out and a “Sponsored by AXE Deodorant Body Spray” banner draped over it. Just get the DVDs…beg, borrow, or steal if you have to.
Planet Earth. A highly recommended nature series that originally aired on the BBC in early 2006 (with David Attenborough narrating) and jumped to the Discovery Channel earlier this year (with Sigourney Weaver narrating). We caught several episodes on Discovery HD, which is a spectacular way to watch the series. My favorite scenes depicted the symbiotic relationships that develop in the wild: snakes and fish hunting together, dolphins and birds herding fish, spiders diving for prey trapped by pitcher plants. NY Times review, Washington Post review, detailed Wikipedia entry. Time/place: Not on TV in the US anymore, as far as I know. Your best bet is on DVD or, if you have an HD player, get the full effect on HD DVD or Blu-ray. Get the Attenborough-narrated version if you can. Oh, it looks like there’s a few highly pixelated complete episodes of Planet Earth on Google Video…get ‘em before they get taken down.