×
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

  • Series Mania: De Mensen, Reel One

    Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project 'Capturing Big Mouth' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth. The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    Viacom, DirecTV Make Progress in Contract Talks, No Blackout After Deadline Passes

    UPDATED: Viacom and DirecTV executives went down to the wire Friday on a combative contract renewal negotiation with high stakes for both sides. The companies stayed in talks past the midnight Eastern contract expiration and the channels stayed up on AT&T’s platforms. Sources indicated early Saturday that the threat of a blackout had been averted. [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

  • Ryan Murphy Walk of Fame

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets Premiere Date for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” series, and Kristin Cavallari will host “Paradise Hotel” on Fox.  DATES More Reviews L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Film Review: 'The Dirt' Reality star Kristin Cavallari will host Fox’s reboot of “Paradise Hotel,” an unscripted dating show in which [...]

  • 'Selling Sunset': Producer Behind Netflix's First

    'Selling Sunset': Producer Behind Netflix's First Docusoap on the State of Reality TV

    Netflix crossed another unscripted threshold on Friday with the launch of “Selling Sunset,” an 8-episode series that follows a group of real estate agents on the Sunset Strip. The show is believed to be the streaming service’s first docusoap, the now-ubiquitous format first popularized in the early 2000s by shows like MTV’s “Laguna Beach” and [...]

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. More Reviews [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content