The BBC does lots of things really well. In fact, I think the main reason BBC America doesn’t conduct itself better in the U.S. is because it’s paid off by the other networks. Let’s face it: after you’ve seen good British television, it’s hard to go back to standard American fare. However, one of the places where the BBC really kicks ass is in its nature documentaries. All you need to do to see the difference between the level of quality is watch something like Planet Earth or Blue Planet and then flip over to the National Geographic channel. The nature narrators here in the U.S., for the most part, sound like they’re talking to six year olds. This is nowhere more evident than in the U.S. vs. Brit versions of the series Life. Hold up Oprah Winfrey, who was chosen just for the name recognition and for sales (and as we’ve discussed on this site elsewhere, nobody can really blame the BBC for doing that)–against David Attenborough, who when narrating just about anything you can tell he has Been There and Done That.
Personally, I think all the natural history BBC programs are must-owns. You can either sit down and watch them in one fell swoop or nab an episode here and there, like a video coffee table book. Either way, they’re fascinating. And don’t miss the behind-the-scenes stuff. Seriously, it’s all good. The Blu-Ray is only $6 more than the DVD as I write this, so I think that’s an easy choice. If for some reason you didn’t catch the broadcast and want to sample it (I didn’t watch it on TV either–I understand they traded narrators here as well, which makes no sense as Hurt is in Harry Potter and is thus known), then episodes are about $3 each in HD via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Or you could just check out this insane clip for a taste of it:
Also, the featurette regarding shooting in the Zanskar river valley is available from Amazon Instant Video for free.