Life, Or Something Like It

A few years ago, a little documentary on the natural wonders of our world made a huge splash – I’m sure you’ve heard of the Planet Earth series of documentaries that have proliferated on DVD since their original release. Since then, the folks at the Discovery Channel have been busy working on a new series called “Life”, narrated by the UK’s answer to David Suzuki, David Attenborough. Or if you live in America, Oprah Winfrey.

Life is different than Planet Earth in that it focuses more on the animals living on our planet and what they do to sustain life, versus the earth as a whole. That being said, the series does include a look at our living, breathing, leafy counterparts: plants. From there it delves into the classic animal groups you learnt about as a kid – mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, primates, sea creatures, and fish, plus a couple of episodes that feature highlights from some of these other episodes as well as new clips on themes like ‘Challenges of Life’ and ‘Hunters & Hunted’.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch the entire series on TV, but given the huge audience out there for Planet Earth, the producers have wisely rushed to release the 10-episode series on DVD and Blu-Ray at prices ranging from $40-$70, depending on where you shop. This is a great gift for anyone that enjoyed the Planet Earth series, loves nature programming, or simply needs to start taking advantage of their wonderful TV & sound system. No joke, Life is quite possibly one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever watched on television. As creepy crawly as insects are in real life, watching the bugs up close via miniature cameras is truly a site to behold. More often than not it feels like you’re watching an animated program, the images are so unbelievably breathtaking.

I was personally planning to score the series for my Dad this Christmas, as he was such a big fan of PE, he sold his original DVD set to buy a Blu-Ray one, well after he’d finished watching it. He put the kibosh on that idea after informing me he’d seen them all on TV as well, but as I suspected, he said they were remarkable and would have loved to buy the set had he not seen it on TV first.

I like the idea of giving a box set like Life because then A) chances are you’re not giving someone something they’ve already watched, B) documentaries of this type are generally universally appreciated, if not loved, C) you’re educating them however subtly, D) it’s not a million hour commitment – the entire series clocks in at about 8 hours, E) it’s a perfect blend of thoughtful, special, and generic for those tough buys on your shopping list (see: in-laws) and F) once they’re done with it they can resell and buy themselves another treat.

While this is a ‘gift for everyone’, I think parents are an obvious fit for the set in particular. Beyond that, I also think it would be a nifty retirement gift for a teacher or staff member that works in the sciences or is a passionate naturalist. Have everyone chip in $5 and you can easily afford this, no matter how small your office.

For the record? I’m on team Attenborough for the narration all the way – it’s too distracting to have Oprah’s booming voice on in the background, and Attenborough’s charming but clear British reading adds a bit of fun to the show.

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