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Split into ten parts and narrated by David Attenborough, each episode of the Life series focuses on a specific strata of our living world. General classifications such as "Fish" and "Reptiles" may seem like a bit of oversimplification, but the filmmakers waste no time in revealing a world that in many cases had until this point never been observed. Oddities abound, but for every Pebble Frog rolling itself into a ball and careening down a hill to avoid capture, there are more well know animals, like dolphins, that for all their familiarity still have the capacity to surprise. What's that you, say, been there done that? Shark Week is old news, dude? Granted, animal documentaries have been around forever, but the BBC didn't exactly send out a couple of goofs to swim around in cages with a camcorder in a zip lock bag. Employing reams of the latest technology, the Life photographers were able to film in extreme conditions, from unheard of vantage points, in pants-soiling high definition. Before, stuff like this would have to have been funded by the government and experienced in an IMAX theater--now you can watch the beauty of nature unfold from your living room recliner on a flat screen the size of a goddamn barn door.
The first time I saw an episode of Life I was rendered speechless. Besides being blown away by the technical achievement, I felt a sense of elation that had been all but lost from my shitty, jaded existence. It was like I was a kid again, exhilarated by the sight of a big cat hunting its prey or a shark silently prowling the murky depths. And not even in an ironic way. I don't mean to get all scientific on you, but the shit was just fucking cool. The spectacle of what these animals are capable of is enough to put a lump in even the most enthusiastic Exxon CEO's throat. And the joy at what the BBC camera crews have captured goes beyond simple amazement. It might have been the gram of sweet cheeba I smoked while watching it with my girlfriend, Sunbeam Peacebewithyou, in her co-op's common area, but afterwards I felt a real connection to the natural world. Humans more or less suck, but animals are pretty awesome. Seeing how different creatures have adapted to every conceivable environment on Earth, the insane things that evolution has wrought in order to get an easier meal or ensure that genes are passed on, and the fact that all of this has been going on since long before man arrived on the scene and will continue to go on well after we're gone is a crash course on the magic of being alive. And even though it shines an incredibly bright spotlight on personal inconsequence in the grand scheme of things, at the same time seeing the great lengths that nature goes to to guarantee that life will continue makes one feel a heightened sense of interconnectivity with everything on earth. That being said, if you need me, I'll be selling dreamcatchers at Burning Man.
There was a time when television was heralded as an educational tool of almost unimaginable powers. That time is not now. Life stands in stark contrast to the pervasive garbage that comes bursting forth out of the cable box like a scalding hot geyser of Jersey Shore spray-on tan. Life has the stealthy beauty of three cheetah brothers stalking an ostrich on the Kenyan savannah. The E Channel has the vile vapidity of three Kardashian sisters stalking black cock in sweaty Miami nightclubs. Life has the pale, grotesque creatures of the fathomless Antarctic sea slowly feeding on the carcass of a sea lion. Fox News has pale, grotesque commentators gorging themselves on the rotting carcass of American political dignity. Put together, the Life series is a testament to what makes planet Earth a truly wonderful place. In comparison, everything else on television is a glaring example of one of evolution's major mistakes.
UPDATE: Apparently for the American broadcast of Life they replaced David Attenborough's narration with Oprah Winfrey's. I'm surprised they didn't replace the animals with ads for McDonalds and Microsoft. SEE ALSO: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lbpcy
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.
See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.
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