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.
[ad#longpost]Well, the BBC does another version of the planet here with Human Planet, going all over the place to show us…well, us. In fascinating ways we probably haven’t seen us before. Us, of course, is the species of man–and how we figure out how to survive no matter what area of the globe we find ourselves in is the thrust of the story. Starting at the edge of the water and working inward until we get to cities by the end, it covers the Earth. It also strikes a nice balance between yay humans and boo humans that a lot of other docus couldn’t manage or couldn’t see fit to figure out. All eight parts of the series are here across three discs, including three additional hours that weren’t broadcast–at least not over here. Perhaps it’s all the Really Big Words. The main thing is that this is the Blu-Ray set. And I’m sorry, but I must say this again: dear brick and mortar electronics stores of the world–if you want to sell more bloody televisions and Blu-Ray setups, get yourself the BBC natural history series of releases and just cycle through them. Your sales will increase. I’m just saying. Video: excellent and audio is the same. Each episode is followed by a making-of featurette, which is just as fascinating as the series itself. There’s also two additional featurettes regarding film locations and one BD-live featurette was accessible when I looked. Also, on board for narration is John Hurt. While he is not Attenborough, he does his job well enough.
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.