The BBC’s Planet Earth saved TV from stupid in 2006—here’s hoping the series does it again.
Written by Kyle Magin
I grew up on nature documentaries. A coworker recently played the crescendo of National Geographic’s tv special opening and said “when you heard this, you knew you were going to learn something cool,” and I thought, yes!
I used to beg my mom to let me watch NatGeo’s Seasons in the Sea documentary on VHS. Episodes of Wild Discovery were my incentive to finish homework by 7:30 on weeknights. Going to Borneo with a narrator in tow is still my idea of a good time.
That’s why I lamented the turn educational TV took in the mid-00s, when Discovery, National Geographic and TLC turned their cameras away from wilderness, space and science and toward every clown who had to fish, pawn, or do dirty jobs because he got Ds in high school. We traded Jacques Cousteau for Uncle Sy, David Attenborough for Mike Rowe, and were worse off for it.
So many people I know thrilled to BBC’s Planet Earth in 2006 precisely because it rebuked the stupid. In case you’re unfamiliar, Planet Earth is an Attenborough directed and narrated wildlife documentary spanning every known biome. It was shot totally in HD when that was still a thing, and is objectively beautiful.
Many docs have come along since and tried to emulate it—See Life and Great Migrations—but none have shown the care for storytelling plus imagery that Attenborough and co nailed the first time around.
They captured a laundry list of iconic shots, including the queen mother of them all:
That’s a great white shark jumping out of the water to eat a seal.
This year, in the midst of the stupidest election cycle in recent memory, when we’re mired in Kardashians and name your CBS procedural and Wicked Tuna, Attenborough is returning with Planet Earth II. The trailer dropped Friday.
Grab a kleenex:
Lion attacking giraffe. Galapagos iguana blowing bubbles. A DAMN SLOTH SWIMMING. It looks like BBC may have matched their original effort, which is something we all need.
There’s no official release date yet. You can watch OG Planet Earth on Netflix in the meantime to stave off the dumb.