Pharyngula

Planet Earth

This evening, I caught most of some episodes of this series the Discovery Channel is airing, Planet Earth, which was advertised here for a while. It wasn’t bad. It had some spectacular photography, did a great job of displaying a wide range of environments, and showed off some of the amazing abilities of animals very well. There were a few things that irritated me, though (I admit it, I criticize everything).

The biggest problem? It’s a show for people with short attention spans. We got brief vignettes of a few minutes—you’d just be getting into the pumas and alpacas in Patagonia, and zip, we’re off to grizzly bears in the Rockies. It was popcorn biology, crunch crunch crunch, you’ve snarfed down a whole bag a few kernels at a time.

That quick glimpse of each biome also meant the focus was entirely on the biggest, most distinctive organisms in the environment, the ol’ charismatic megafauna problem of nature documentaries. For instance, several of the scenes featured whale sharks or dolphins or sailfish chowing down on these great schools of generically named “bait fish”…but hey, wait a minute, aren’t these “bait fish” a rather critical component of the ecosystem? Why not tell us more about them? Treating them as convenient clouds of meat for bigger predators didn’t seem to do them justice.

Still, it was worth watching, and maybe younger kids would have an easier time getting into it. After a few hours exposure, I was feeling a bit whipsawed by the too frequent changes in subject.