“Life” ** The Discovery Channel

Episode one: Challenges of Life
Episode two: Mammals

Review of two of 11 parts

Life ** The Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel has made a name and well-earned reputation for itself in presenting some of the most entertaining, admired and sometimes astonishing programs currently available on cable television. With their latest series, “Life”, they have created a series that is, at the least, educational, and the most, stunning to the point where it will leave viewers saying, “How did they get that on film?”

This is a family-friendly (both animal and human) and beautifully photographed series. Getting footage of animals, reptiles, and bugs (oh my!) as they are in the moments of living their lives whether it involves hunting, eating or sex involves more than good camera work: it involves knowing where to scout out these creatures and a bit of luck. The production crews (think of them as predator voyeurs) know how and where to scout out and capture the action. Bonus footage of the film crews, as they recall with awe their close encounters with their subject(s), is included at the end of each episode in a feature called “Capturing the Moment.” Geeks and techheads in the audience will appreciate seeing some of the equipment setups used in filming.

Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, the series takes viewers through the everyday life adventures of woodland and ocean creatures, large and small. While the talk show doyenne does an adequate job of narration, guiding the viewer through the panoramic scenery and the adventures in daily living that these lifers experience, her delivery has a put-on, affected tone  to it (this is not the loud and wildly enthusiastic Oprah of giving-away-my-favorite-things fame) and some of the narration is marred by the inclusion of bad clichés: of a rodent’s jungle trails: “she knows them like the back of her claw,” and a male hippo’s need to mate: “a hippo’s thoughts turn to love.” Fortunately, such drivel is not a constant in this series.

The first episode, “Challenges of Life,” cuts together various animals in their respective environments and serves as a primer of what’s to come in the series.

Episode two, “Mammals,” explores the world of mammals and shows what makes our four-footed counterparts similar to us. Whether one believes in Darwin and evolution or not, the characteristics of the featured animals and humans cannot be denied.

Originally premiering on March 21, 2010, this series captured 33.8 million viewers on its opening night. It was the most widely watched debut series for the Discovery Channel, even bigger than their previous ratings champ, “Planet Earth.”   However, in fairness, “Life” gathered their monster numbers by simulcasting on all seven of the Discovery Network’s affiliated channels.

In this series, Discovery Channel has created a masterful piece of work that is incredibly watchable and entertaining and presents “Life” as others, bigger and smaller, live it.

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