×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Planet Earth II’

With newer technology and an emphasis on human involvement, the second installment matches and even surpasses the first

With:
Narrated by David Attenborough

Simply put, “Planet Earth” is the most important program of our generation. It makes writing about it almost beside the point; the program, whose second installment “Planet Earth II” is debuting on BBC America this Saturday, is an exquisitely rendered documentary of the natural world. It’s a uniquely dichotomous achievement, one that combines our expanding technologies and cinematic skills with the remote wildness of habitats without humans. It makes for a program that offers a vision of humanity’s relationship with our environment at its absolute and most idealistic best: One where we work mightily to contemplate, understand, and admire the mysterious natural world around us.

For viewers familiar with “Planet Earth,” “Planet Earth II” offers many of the same pleasures — except with even more high-definition, immersive visuals, and a gorgeous score by Hans Zimmer, Jasha Klebe, and Jacob Shea that inspires wonder. This is a show made for the fanciest television screens, the expensive sound systems; it’s worth savoring the lush texture of “Planet Earth II,” from its stop-motion depiction of molten lava forming islands in the Pacific Ocean to the susurrations of starlings taking wing en masse over Rome. The seven new episodes include a making-of episode to cap the season and an exploration of six very different land habitats: islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and — wait for it — cities.

“Cities” is where “Planet Earth II” is at its most humane and magnificent — its most optimistic and purely painful. The series as a whole is a labor of love to the planet that nurtures us, and as a result is an implicit call for conservation and further ecological study. In “Cities,” “Planet Earth II” examines animal populations in cities that take advantage of human structures for their own benefit — like peregrine falcons, who have amassed in huge numbers in New York City, because the skyscrapers and concrete-fueled thermals mimic the sheer cliffs of their preferred nesting grounds. There are stories of great sadness in cities, too, as is too often the case for wildlife as civilization encroaches on it. But “Planet Earth II” affords both a cautionary tale and a message of incredible, unbelievable hope: There is a way for humans and animals to live together in harmony, if we are willing to understand and invest in that future.

There is no one quite like David Attenborough for narrating the private lives of animals; with his signature dry British wit, he can make “human” drama out of the breeding antics of Australian bowerbirds and pygmy sloths, in the midst of offering pithy observations about the very nature and fragility of life on this endlessly surprising and diverse planet. Attenborough and “Planet Earth II” can make the solitude of an albatross waiting for his mate into heartbreaking drama; it shouldn’t be possible, and yet the show manages emotional investment like this over and over again.

2016 was the hottest year on record. Arctic sea ice is at record lows. Oxygen levels in oceans have dropped dramatically. Pollution is so widespread, industrial chemicals have contaminated even the most remote depths of the ocean. “Planet Earth II” is more vital and necessary than ever — a love letter that reads like a historical document, in homage to a planet that may not be able to support this magnificent biodiversity much longer. As a show, it is masterful work. As an instrument of love and affection for the multitudes of life on this fragile world, it is indispensible.

TV Review: 'Planet Earth II'

Nature Documentary, 7 episodes (2 reviewed): BBC America, Sat. Feb. 18, 9 p.m. 60 min.

Crew: Executive producers, Michael Gunton

Cast: Narrated by David Attenborough

More TV

  • 'My Brilliant Friend' Scores Brilliant Ratings

    'My Brilliant Friend' Scores Brilliant Ratings at Home

    With its international rollout well underway, the critically acclaimed TV series “My Brilliant Friend,” based on the first of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s bestselling “Neapolitan Novels,” is scoring strong ratings at home in Italy, and is also playing well in the U.S. and U.K. The show, which explores the bounds of female friendship, is being [...]

  • Himesh Patel, Ewen Leslie Join BBC

    Himesh Patel, Ewen Leslie Join BBC Adaptation of Man Booker Prize Winner ‘The Luminaries’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Himesh Patel and Ewen Leslie have joined “The Luminaries,” with production now underway on the highly anticipated series adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel. The pair join Eve Hewson (“The Knick”), Eva Green (“Penny Dreadful”) and Marton Csokas (“Into the Badlands”) in the period piece. The high-end drama is being produced by Working [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    ‘CBS This Morning’ Executive Producer in Potential Exit Talks

    Ryan Kadro, the executive producer of “CBS This Morning” and one of the architects of the A.M. program, is currently in contract discussions that could lead to his exit from the show, according to three people familiar with the matter. Kadro’s contract is slated to run out at the end of the year, and he [...]

  • NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California

    NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California Live' Daily Daytime Series

    NBC’s three California O&Os are set to launch a live daily lifestyle series dubbed “California Live.” The series will air at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday across KNBC-TV Los Angeles, KNTV-TV San Francisco and KNSD San Diego. The show will have some modular segments that will be customized for each market, with an emphasis on [...]

  • TV Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Tidying Up

    TV News Roundup: Steven Yeun Joins 'Twilight Zone' at CBS All Access

    In Wednesday’s roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and Steven Yeun joins Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” reboot. FIRST LOOKS  More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' Variety has an exclusive behind-the-scenes first look at Season 2 of Showtime’s “SMILF,” featuring creator and star, Frankie Shaw. The new [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    CBS News Settles Suit Alleging Harassment by Charlie Rose

    CBS News settled a lawsuit filed by three women who alleged they were harassed by former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose, and claimed CBS did not act despite being aware of the situation. The amount awarded to the women was not disclosed at their request, according to a CBS News spokesperson. “The matter has [...]

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content