The Discovery Channel celebrated its 25th anniversary and the launch of the LIFE series with an incredible party at New York's Lincoln Center Thursday. How incredible? The New York Pops played the score to the first episode live and in time with every flick of the gecko's tongue, every twitch of the cheetah's shoulder.
Life is the next project by the same BBC-Discovery team that produced Planet Earth. The names of each led to some humorous phrasing throughout the night, as Discovery Channel bigwigs with titles like Executive Producer of Life discussed how impressed they were with building on the success they had creating Planet Earth.
They are justifiably proud. The first episode of Life airs March 21, and 10 more episodes will follow after it. Like Planet Earth, there are unprecedented shots that were made possible only by new digital video technology ... and a tremendous amount of patience. This series is narrated by Oprah Winfrey, who apparently saw some of the footage and immediately signed on.
If I have any complaint about the episode I saw and it's hard to come up with anything to criticize it's that the whole thing feels like a magnificent highlight reel of the greatest wildlife footage ever captured. What's wrong with that? The kernels of science and knowledge that Oprah intones seem like almost an afterthought at times, so that you learn very little about evolution, habitats or conservation imperatives. But you are nonetheless awed by the wonders of life on Earth, and invited to gasp, laugh and empathize with various creatures as they try to survive.
There's incredible footage of a tiny poison arrow frog, about the size of a fingernail, carrying its tadpoles one-by-one on its back up into the forest canopy, climbing as much as a half mile, to deposit each in its own little droplet of water, where it develops safe from predators. There's first-ever-seen footage of three cheetahs working together to pull down an ostrich that would be out of the league of any individual cheetah (and believe me, you will leave thinking ostriches are pretty bad-ass even though this one doesn't survive.) And there is extraordinary aerial footage of dolphins off the coast of Florida, creating muddy circles in the water that act like nets: as the fish become encircled, they leap from the water into the smiling jaws of the dolphins. Amazing.
Little details also catch your eye: Insects seem impressively thoughtful and calculating when filmed in such detail that you can watch their eyes forming (incredibly, like blown glass) during metamorphosis, and their crab-like battles for dominance on a tree branch.
But you don't want to read my impressions. You want to see some clips. Here they are:
Premiering March 21 8 p.m.
Premiering March 21 at 9 p.m.
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