Real Reality Programming

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Last night, after putting the baby to bed, I poured two glasses of wine for my husband and myself and settled down on the couch to watch one of our current favorite TV shows. The show airs on Tuesday nights on the Discovery Channel (we had it recorded on our DVR) and it stars absolutely nobody. The show is Africa and it is the channel’s latest venture into what I like to call Real Reality Programming. I’ve coined that term to define the series of shows recently co-produced by the BBC and aired on the Discovery Channel that document the animals, lands and oceans of our beloved planet. The first one that became somewhat of a must-have-series for flat screen TV / Blu-ray DVD owners was Planet Earth.Debuting on the Discovery Channel in 2007 after a successful run in the UK on the BBC, and narrated by Sigourney Weaver, Planet Earth takes viewers on an extraordinary journey through different environments and locations of our planet. Five years in the making, it was described by its makers as “the definitive look at the diversity of our planet.” During my first viewing, I remember being absolutely dumbfounded by the shots that these camera men were able to get (remember the shot of that great white eating a seal in the air?!), the discipline they demonstrated by waiting patiently to get the right shot (remember the mating dance of the Bird of Paradise?!) and the danger they put themselves in to get the shot (remember the snow storm that hit Mt. Everest?!). I couldn’t believe the footage they captured of the never-before-seen shrimp on the bottom of the ocean (they pulsed with light!) and I will never forget the description and imagery of the 4 foot long fish that lives in the sandy bed of a river in Japan. It was the grossest thing I have ever seen and it is single-handedly responsible for removing Japan from my must-go-to-list. After Planet Earth, when they realized they had a product that American audiences were really sinking their teeth into, they started to produce and release more. They debuted Life, Frozen Planet and most recently Africa, each one narrated by a different Hollywood celebrity; Oprah Winfrey, Alec Baldwin and Forest Whitaker, respectively. Each one focuses on some other part of our planet that most people have never spent much time thinking about. For example, last night I learned about the mating rituals of butterflies in Mozambique. I know it sounds like a complete snoozefest but the visuals are so spectacular, it keeps your interest. And I prefer to learn about the life span of the green turtle (Forest told me that only 1 in 1000 of these babies survive to adult hood!) than Kim Kardashian’s latest dramas. But that’s just me.

If you have never seen these shows, I hope I have at least piqued your interest so that you will give them a try. If not, you can return to E!. I ain’t mad at cha. But if you are a fan of these types of shows, don’t forget that the season finale of Africa is next week. They will take us on a journey through the Sahara – a desert area in Northern Africa that happens to be the size of the United States. In the mean time, tell us which narrator of a Discovery Channel series is your favorite?

Alec Baldwin

Forest Whitaker

Oprah Winfrey

Sigourney Weaver

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