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‘Planet Earth II’: Drones and David Attenborough Drive BBC America’s Lavish Docu Series

The lavish documentary series “Planet Earth II” comes to BBC America on Feb. 18 with a key element that was missing from the first edition when it aired in the U.S. in 2006: David Attenborough’s imitable narration.

Attenborough, “Planet Earth II” exec producer Mike Gunton and producer Elizabeth White talked up the production process on the six-hour series Friday during BBC America’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour.

The first installment of “Planet Earth II” will air as a simulcast across BBC America and its sibling AMC and SundanceTV channels — a sign of AMC Networks’ efforts to exposure the show to the widest possible audience.

“Planet Earth II” is a part of the BBC’s tradition of producing sumptuous nature documentaries with Attenborough. The series racked up a total of 2,089 shooting days across 40 different counties. The episodes are organized by a focus on region: islands, mountains, jungles, grasslands, deserts and cities. When the series aired in the U.K. late last year, it delivered blockbuster ratings and encouraged group viewing parties among families and college students.

“For those that think TV’s dead, that appointment-to-view TV dead, this has absolutely confounded that,” Gunton said. “We are the highest-rated show other than (‘The Great British) Bake-Off’ in the whole of Britain.

A decade ago, when Discovery Channel carried the first edition, the decision was made to replace Attenborough’s narration track with the voice of Sigourney Weaver. This time around, viewers will hear the witty and insightful words spoken by the man who wrote them.

“We’ve always felt for you guys that you never heard David’s voice,” Gunton said.

Producers noted that in the years since the first wildly praised doc was produced, drone technology has transformed the process of capturing nature footage in the field. Attenborough, speaking via satellite from London, also cited the use of “camera traps” — motion-activited devices that can be planted on rocks and trees to capture the kind of candid footage that a human crew could never gather.

“If you’re clever enough you can get extraordinary shots,” Attenborough said.

(Pictured: David Attenborough, Mike Gunton and Elizabeth White)

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