The new Discovery Channel nature documentary started last night and it was pretty awesome. Still there were a few annoying things about it—from animal carnage to Oprah's voice—that it really needs to improve.
Yes, the show is pretty great as is—especially if you have HD—but for our full endorsement, here are five problems it needs to fix.
1. More Death in Life: Unlike most nature shows that are just like, "Let's look at a bunch of things in the wild," Life feels the need to create narrative arcs for each of its scenes. Since they're often tugging at our hearts that means that most of the time the creatures escape certain death. How boring! We don't watch to see the ibex escape the red fox (like above). We want to see it get gored! Yes, there were some great scenes of cheetahs hunting an ostrich and kimodo dragons hunting a water buffalo, and that is what the audience wants! Too much of our entertainment already plays into our fear of death, and if we really want to see nature as it truly is, we need to get used to its vicious ways. Don't sugarcoat it letting people think the cute animals will live to see another day and everyone is happy. They forget that the fox is off after another ibex that won't be so lucky. It's the circle of life. It's sad and bloody and totally rad.
2. Animals Are Not People: I'm sorry, but the hippo is not going off "in search of love." He is going to try to find a lady to mate with because he has a biological imperative to pass along his genes. Stop trying to make him out to be Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy. He is just a big, stupid hippo who wants to fuck. Also, the little strawberry tree frog is not a "good parent" because it lays unfertilized eggs for its young to eat; it's just trying to survive. We don't need to think that animals are just like us and have the same motivations as we to do think they're cool. Actually, it's kind of insulting to insinuate. After all, if they were so smart and human, they'd be watching a program about us, now wouldn't they.
3. Oprah's Voice Makes Us Cry: The producers traded in the majestic and regal Sigourney Weaver, who narrated Planet Earth for their biggest fan, Oprah Winfrey. And it's not Oprah using her, "My best friend Julia Rooooooobeeeeeeerrrrts," voice. It's Oprah using her very serious voice where she talks about sad things that are going to break your heart. We are, by now, Pavlovianly programmed to cry at this voice. It means that someone is going to talk about being cheated on, abused, overcoming cancer, surviving some horrible ordeal, or triumphing over certain death to come back to live a better life and become a person who loves everyone. Yes, this voice makes us reach for the Kleenex based on instinct alone. This is not how we should feel watching a show about pretty birds and trees.
4. Where Are the Animals We Live With?: I'm not talking about dogs and cats, but where are the squirrels and possums and mice that inhabit more urban environments. The producers need to realize that there is interesting wildlife that has never been filmed that is not in some exotic location that is hard to get to. Show us rats living in the sewers or how those turtles survive in Central Park. That would be some must see TV and a whole lot cheaper than flying to a remote part of Borneo to film some crazy bug no one ever heard of.
5. It Makes Us Hate Watching TV: Life is fucking beautiful. Watching it, we want to go exploring waterfalls inhabited by cute little frogs that can't even jump and have thumbs. We want to book a plane ticket to Peru and meet up with a group of zoologists. We want to, well, stop doing the thing that inspired us to want to do these things in first place. Yes, Life makes you feel like a loser for sitting around in a city staring at a television when there is all this splendor in the world. Life makes our life look absolutely worthless, and there is nothing worse than seeing the green grass on the other side.