James Thurber and E.B. White asked, "Is Sex Necessary?""Nature's" new six-hour saga on the subject observes that the drive to reproduce does make it necessary. First four hours (half the second program, part of the fourth were missing in the review tapes), with dozens of animals keenly observed, unspool numerous forms of activity among countless forms of life; program becomes numbing.

James Thurber and E.B. White asked, “Is Sex Necessary?””Nature’s” new six-hour saga on the subject observes that the drive to reproduce does make it necessary. First four hours (half the second program, part of the fourth were missing in the review tapes), with dozens of animals keenly observed, unspool numerous forms of activity among countless forms of life; program becomes numbing.

Originally shown in England with more time devoted to human sexuality, series was reedited and programmed to fit “Nature’s” emphasis on animals. Some segs were intro’d from other sources, but this version of “The Nature of Sex” certainly stands on its own. And it’s too long.

Program, with no credited director of photography and 25 fotogs listed, picks up on the myriad bizarre forms of mating habits that are duly explained as based on necessity and resourcefulness. Birds jumping up in a field to grab attention, sea monsters gulping down polliwogs, monkeys leaping into streams, spiders devouring mates, penguins seeking out last year’s love — all are variations on life. The power of moonlight on creatures and styles used to attract the opposite sex are part of an overall picture that verges on “Believe It or Not.”

The fourth hour brings on prehistoric man in eerily realistic form as our East African ancestors toss stones at baffled lions to chase them off. They collect in groups for self-protection — and to extend their genes.

From the start, it’s clear that the purpose of sex among all creatures is to perpetuate the species. The evolved methods will inform and/or amuse viewers who stay the course, despite the dry narration.

Seg of a male bird building and decorating a bower to attract a female is a lesson in male deviltry: Once he’s had his way, the female stands dazed in the bower entryway. Editing sometimes jars — abrupt transitions don’t always lead to more interesting subjects, and the barrage of info is wearying.

A biological kaleidoscope, the assembled footage spotlights hijinks and determination among procreators, investigates competition, courting, mating, reproduction and nurturing of countless types of creatures. Too many, for that matter.

Nature the Nature of Sex

(Mon. (22), Tues. (23), Wed. (14), 9-11 p.m., PBS)

Production

Filmed by Genesis Film Prods Ltd., 13/WNET and Channel Four (U.K.). Exec producers, Michael Rosenberg, George Pace (for "Nature"); producer, Clive Bromhall; writers, Janet Hess, Hildy Rubin, Susane Lane, David Helton.

Crew

Camera, uncredited; editors, Revel Fox, Alan Miller; sound, Ed Campbell; music, Terry Oldfield.

Cast

Narrator: George Page.
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