BBC and Discovery tighten grip on genre



By Colin Walsh

Last decade, BBC and the Discovery Channel didn’t just raise the bar on nature documentaries, they pushed it through the atmosphere by cataloguing our entire planet on an unprecedented scale with “Planet Earth.”

The two master natural history production companies have teamed up again to deliver another ambitious project: “Life.” And for those hoping that it would feel like a sequel to its groundbreaking predecessor, “Planet Earth,” you’re in luck. “Life” not only matches the first act, it runs right past it into new and exciting territory.

As the title suggests, “Life” brings us up close and personal with a diverse abundance of living organisms and showcases all the fascinating behaviors that we are rarely, if ever, privy to witness.

“Life” focuses almost exclusively upon animals as they fight to survive; and the actions that promote that survival are almost always at the expense of another individual.

Whether it’s a baby ibex scaling a cliff to avoid a pursuing fox, or a pack of cheetahs brutally taking down an ostrich, nearly all the scenes in “Life” vividly remind us that life, for every organism on the planet (except us), is a constant, never-ending struggle to avoid death by any means necessary.

Therefore, “Life” is aptly titled, and is a potent depiction of the simultaneous beauty and cruelty of Earth’s many ecosystems.

I know that some of you might be wondering what sets “Life” apart from “Planet Earth.” The only difference, and that’s not to say it is substantial, is that the newcomer focuses on animals interacting with other animals, whereas the prevailing aspect of “Planet Earth” was depicting animals as they interacted with their geography and climate.

Differences aside, “Life”  will affect its audience just as “Planet Earth” did — it will completely envelop anyone who watches it, and those who immerse themselves deeper will hopefully develop a newfound or greater respect for the awesome power and beauty of nature.

Least I forget: HD is an absolute must for this show. The shots here are breathtakingly vivid and astonishingly detailed; anything less than 720 pixels will not do them justice.

Sadly, I do have one complaint with the U.S. edition of “Life,” and I normally wouldn’t point this out, but it’s a mistake that the Discovery Channel continues to make.

Once again they have chosen to take David Attenborough out of his role as narrator and replace him with a voice that U.S. audiences will be more familiar with; in “Planet Earth” it was Sigourney Weaver, and for “Life” they have chosen Oprah Winfrey.

I have nothing against these women, but it just makes no sense to remove such a seasoned and talented narrator. Attenborough has been narrating natural history documentaries since the early 1950s and is inarguably the voice that people have come to expect, admire and enjoy.

Overall, “Life” is a fantastic addition to the genre and undeniable proof that BBC and Discovery Channel absolutely own it.

You can catch new episodes of “Life” on the Discovery Channel on Sunday nights at 8 p.m.