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National Geographic Explorer: Killer Wave

National Geographic Explorer: Killer Wave (Sun. (23), 7-8 p.m., TBS) Filmed in Oahu and Hilo, Hawaii; Japan; and the Pacific Northwest by National Geographic Television in association with Turner Original Prods. Executive producer, Michael Rosenfeld; producer, Kevin Bachar; writer, Jaime Bernanke; camera, Paul Atkins; editor, Dana Seidel; sound, Grace Niska Atkins; music, Pinnacle Prods. Host: Boyd Matson. Narrator: Michael Carroll. The problem with a documentary about tsunamis --- devastating tidal waves caused by underwater volcanic eruptions or earthquakes --- is a lack of footage. They occur so rarely and suddenly that no one has been able to document them for any significant duration. Their deadly nature would make for exciting television, yet this National Geographic special, kicking off TBS' "Disaster Sunday," can't deliver the visuals. Program also suffers from a dearth of scientific knowledge about tsunamis. So many qualifiers are issued that repeated admonishments from scientists and the narrator to beware just seem alarmist. Result is a less than killer documentary that makes a less than compelling case. Don't tell that to the people of Hilo, Hawaii, or other Pacific Rim communities. The tsunami of 1946 devastated the Big Island city and so did one in 1960 (61 people dead). In the late 1800s, a tsunami killed 22,000 Japanese. Eyewitness accounts, still photographs and artistic renderings of these events cannot do justice to the reality. And it's a shame the couple of scientists interviewed come off like Chicken Littles. Underwhelming statistics are partly to blame. There's a one in 10 chance that in the next 50 years a tsunami will strike the Pacific Northwest. Yeah, so? That tsunamis have been clocked at 400 mph is more impressive, and certainly more entertaining, if only we could see one in action. To represent tsunamis, shots of churning seas that look like out-takes from a surfing competition are used. Photographic evidence of their aftermath and first person reports are moving, yet the most dynamic sequencesare representations. Computer-generated pictures of a huge wave bearing down on the Statue of Liberty and another on the Golden Gate Bridge are offered. The other exciting point in the program is unplanned, and occurs inside the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu. A siren goes off while the crew is interviewing a resident scientist. An underwater earthquake was detected but did not result in a killer wave. Because we know so little about them, the mystery of tsunamis could conceivably be the topic of a very engaging documentary. The folks at National Geographic don't take advantage of this mystery. They should have taken their cue from Native American legends or Japanese paintings about the subject. AU: John P. McCarthy

With:
Host: Boyd Matson.

National Geographic Explorer: Killer Wave (Sun. (23), 7-8 p.m., TBS) Filmed in Oahu and Hilo, Hawaii; Japan; and the Pacific Northwest by National Geographic Television in association with Turner Original Prods. Executive producer, Michael Rosenfeld; producer, Kevin Bachar; writer, Jaime Bernanke; camera, Paul Atkins; editor, Dana Seidel; sound, Grace Niska Atkins; music, Pinnacle Prods. Host: Boyd Matson. Narrator: Michael Carroll. The problem with a documentary about tsunamis — devastating tidal waves caused by underwater volcanic eruptions or earthquakes — is a lack of footage. They occur so rarely and suddenly that no one has been able to document them for any significant duration. Their deadly nature would make for exciting television, yet this National Geographic special, kicking off TBS’ “Disaster Sunday,” can’t deliver the visuals. Program also suffers from a dearth of scientific knowledge about tsunamis. So many qualifiers are issued that repeated admonishments from scientists and the narrator to beware just seem alarmist. Result is a less than killer documentary that makes a less than compelling case. Don’t tell that to the people of Hilo, Hawaii, or other Pacific Rim communities. The tsunami of 1946 devastated the Big Island city and so did one in 1960 (61 people dead). In the late 1800s, a tsunami killed 22,000 Japanese. Eyewitness accounts, still photographs and artistic renderings of these events cannot do justice to the reality. And it’s a shame the couple of scientists interviewed come off like Chicken Littles. Underwhelming statistics are partly to blame. There’s a one in 10 chance that in the next 50 years a tsunami will strike the Pacific Northwest. Yeah, so? That tsunamis have been clocked at 400 mph is more impressive, and certainly more entertaining, if only we could see one in action. To represent tsunamis, shots of churning seas that look like out-takes from a surfing competition are used. Photographic evidence of their aftermath and first person reports are moving, yet the most dynamic sequencesare representations. Computer-generated pictures of a huge wave bearing down on the Statue of Liberty and another on the Golden Gate Bridge are offered. The other exciting point in the program is unplanned, and occurs inside the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu. A siren goes off while the crew is interviewing a resident scientist. An underwater earthquake was detected but did not result in a killer wave. Because we know so little about them, the mystery of tsunamis could conceivably be the topic of a very engaging documentary. The folks at National Geographic don’t take advantage of this mystery. They should have taken their cue from Native American legends or Japanese paintings about the subject. AU: John P. McCarthy

Popular on Variety

National Geographic Explorer: Killer Wave

Sun. (23), 7-8 p.m., TBS

Production: Filmed in Oahu and Hilo, Hawaii; Japan; and the Pacific Northwest by National Geographic Television in association with Turner Original Prods. Executive producer, Michael Rosenfeld; producer, Kevin Bachar; writer, Jaime Bernanke

Crew: Camera, Paul Atkins; editor, Dana Seidel; sound, Grace Niska Atkins; music, Pinnacle Prods.

Cast: Host: Boyd Matson.Narrator: Michael Carroll.

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