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Frozen Planet
March 17, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Fans of BBC series Planet Earth will once again be thrilled by the power of nature in HD as Discovery Channel airs the new series Frozen Planet, made by the BBC Natural History Unit, which created the original series. Entertainment Weekly has a lengthy interview with the series producer and director about Frozen Planet and the making of the series. The series premieres on Discovery Channel on March 18 at 8pm.
posted by hippybear (33 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
no mention of the fact it won't include an episode on global warming?
posted by parmanparman at 8:29 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't mention it because it isn't true. Discovery will be airing all seven episodes, with the first six narrated by Alec Baldwin and the seventh presented by David Attenborough.
posted by hippybear at 8:37 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glacier spotting is going to be the next big nouveau riche status symbol.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Icy Finger of Death (with David Attenborough's narration).
posted by BobbyVan at 8:46 AM on March 17, 2012


I'm really looking forward to this, but I'm still traumatized by the Planet Earth episode where they talked about global warming and its effects in the Arctic, with the footage of the polar bear swimming endlessly, looking for a nonexistent ice flow.
posted by rtha at 8:53 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I can't think about the polar bears for very long or else I get overwhelmed. I'm quite looking forward to the series, and quite expecting to be utterly bummed out by things by/during the last episode.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 AM on March 17, 2012


Wikipedia:

This episode was initially not expected to be shown in the United States. Ten networks that would have run the episode opted out, citing fear of controversy and "the reaction it might draw from America's climate change skeptics", including the fact that "the timing of a one-sided global warming programme could be particularly sensitive in the U.S., where climate change is an issue in the presidential race."[25][26]

On 6 December 2011, the Discovery Channel announced that it would air the seventh and final episode of Frozen Planet.[6] Controversy erupted last month when reports surfaced that Discovery was considering not showing the seventh episode of the series, which discusses global warming. That episode, "Frozen Planet: On Thin Ice," includes on-camera shots of Attenborough, who narrates the British version, discussing what shrinking glaciers and rising temperatures mean for people and wildlife that live in the region as well as the rest of the planet.

posted by ovvl at 8:59 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ice floe is what I meant, of course. Stupid lack of enough coffee.
posted by rtha at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2012


I would imagine that many of the Internet savvy people we tend to have around here have already seen this, months ago, narrated by Attenborough. I can't imagine that many American fans of BBC shows haven't already started watching them online rather than waiting months or years for crappy Americanized versions.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:06 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Didn't mention it because it isn't true.

Yes, not true, as in they never bothered to get Baldwin to narrate it, though he would certainly been on board for it, and only relented when they discovered it is better to piss off a handful of conspiracy theorists rather than their entire audience.

The Discovery Channel should be buried for even considering that course of action.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, they didn't get Baldwin to narrate it because it's the only episode in the series in which Attenborough appears on camera and addresses the audience directly rather than doing voice-over narration.

That is, unless you're suggesting that they should have had Attenborough appear on camera and have Baldwin do dubbing to replace his voice, which would just be creepy and stupid.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would imagine that many of the Internet savvy people we tend to have around here have already seen this, months ago, narrated by Attenborough. I can't imagine that many American fans of BBC shows haven't already started watching them online rather than waiting months or years for crappy Americanized versions.

I'm internet-savvy but would prefer to watch this on the TV screen, which is considerably larger than that of my laptop.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ive been watching these on HD on a nice TV with attenborough narration. It is the nearest thing to a religious experience for me....
posted by lalochezia at 9:28 AM on March 17, 2012


That would be an awesome thing to do, but only as his character on 30 Rock.

Doesn't change the fact that they went out of their way to acquiesce to political pressure, preemptively.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:37 AM on March 17, 2012


Ive been watching these on HD on a nice TV with attenborough narration. It is the nearest thing to a religious experience for me....

I've never understood the attenborough worship. I mean, compared to snuff movies staring animals and thinly veiled paens to the glory of the free market evidenced in god's creation, an avuncular english gentleman-adventurer talking over technically accomplished imagery is... not so bad. but, for all of the very nice photography, all of the attenborough programs I can think of have never really tried to say anything about nature... to advance a point of view or a conversation of points of view. I guess there's something to be said for being completely inoffensive, but hardly a basis for a religion.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:10 AM on March 17, 2012


I think lalochezia was trying to convey that s/he very much enjoys watching the program. I think you're bringing the rest of the controversy to the table there, ennui.bz
posted by lazaruslong at 10:23 AM on March 17, 2012


but, for all of the very nice photography, all of the attenborough programs I can think of have never really tried to say anything about nature... to advance a point of view or a conversation of points of view.

?

Are you under the impression these are meant as discussion shows?

The various Attenborough series have always been ground breaking, moving the frontiers of nature photography with each, showing the miracles and wonders of nature in all its facets.

Do they need to do more?

And incidently, they haven't been "completely inoffensive", or Dutch broadcaster EO wouldn't have felt the need to censor a previous series for all its mentions of evolution...
posted by MartinWisse at 10:25 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


but, for all of the very nice photography, all of the attenborough programs I can think of have never really tried to say anything about nature... to advance a point of view or a conversation of points of view.


I find myself a bit confused as to what you want from a nature show. I just spent a while rewatching Life in the Undergrowth, Attenborough's series on land invertebrates, and I can think of few other programs that do as good a job at capturing the nature of evolution, ecological interactions between species, and in general the beauty, complexity, and mystery of the insect world. I'm not sure what else one would want from a nature doc, though it's certainly incomplete as a textbook. You know how you can take a course in Art Appreciation? Attenborough's work is basically an introduction to Animal Appreciation, and gorgeous to boot. I'm sure it was part of the formative experience of no small number of biologists. I confess I have a bit less love for Planet Earth than his work on the various animal kingdoms, as it winds up feeling more like beautiful anecdotes of spectacular adaptation than concentrated exploration, but that strikes me as the exception, not the rule.

I do always wonder what happens with the footage that doesn't get edited into the show, though. I always hope that it goes into research banks somewhere, but it's not like I've ever seen supplementary info for a paper with a movie from their film crews.
posted by Schismatic at 10:45 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


but, for all of the very nice photography, all of the attenborough programs I can think of have never really tried to say anything about nature... to advance a point of view or a conversation of points of view.

Hey! A really great option for you would Last Chance to See. That's a fantastic nature show in 6 episodes I believe with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine travel the world retracing Mark and Douglas Adam's previous trips to see endangered animals. Definitely has a message and an interesting angle.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:11 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also great fun.

The series is notable for the scene in which a male kakapo called Sirocco mounts and attempts to mate with Carwardine's head. Sirocco found fame after the video of his antics became an internet hit, and was later anointed as New Zealand's "spokesbird for conservation".

posted by lazaruslong at 11:13 AM on March 17, 2012


I find myself a bit confused as to what you want from a nature show. I just spent a while rewatching Life in the Undergrowth, Attenborough's series on land invertebrates, and I can think of few other programs that do as good a job at capturing the nature of evolution, ecological interactions between species, and in general the beauty, complexity, and mystery of the insect world.

See, the nature of evolution as an idea has a lot of cross-currents and has... evolved, and continues to. Ecology is an even bigger and amorphous subject. The BBC/Attenborough productions tend to go for the broadest kind of consensus language so that, as a viewer, a get a series of platitudes that seem to have some sort of generic authority.

Which makes the "controversy" about the seventh episode interesting, because it's exactly this consensus that the thoroughly politicized "debate" about global warming is designed to attack. It's exactly when you attempt to build something on consensus and broadest appeal that the "overton window" comes into play.

But, if you, say, watch NOVA/Nature from the late seventies to now, you will see that the productions get kind of generic over time. There was a lot of very weird stuff going on in those earlier nature programs that was never over-the-top or advocacy, but that you had to pay attention to see...
posted by ennui.bz at 12:09 PM on March 17, 2012


I've never understood the attenborough worship.

Wow, really? Do you watch a lot of nature documentaries? Cause I do (lord, I most certainly do, to the frustration of my partner), and buddy Attenborough scripted docos - those without the involvement of the Michael-Bay-Of-Documentarians, Alastair Fothergill - are not simply staggering technical achievements, or simply beautiful video clips. They are almost endlessly informative, and not just about a species or a genus, but taken as a whole, about the natural world, and humankind's paradoxically tiny, yet over-influential place in it.

I've banged on about it before on mefi, but for me the genius of Attenborough is his fundamental understanding that all life is fascinating, if viewed from the right perspective. It doesn't have to be a shark fighting a tiger on a volcano. The tiniest bug, most placid antelope, or even a tree - a tree! - is just as interesting and worthy, worthy of inspection, of respect, of affection, as anything else living on this planet. I feel that this kind of understanding and approach is sorely lacking, in most television, in most documentaries, and in a crap-tonne of societies. In patiently illuminating how lucky we are to be living on this fascinating world, Attenborough encourages us to appreciate what pre-dates humanity, and respect the rights of other, different forms of life that are entitled to their place in our shared home. It is an ethos of mutual respect that I really genuinely feel is crucial to our conceptions of humanity, and something quite noble.

I don't know. I grew up in the country, and though I've been a city-dweller for almost the majority of my life, now - and likely to remain so - there's a part of me that actively hungers for the natural world. The spaces of nature. The way you think about yourself when you are in nature, and how you interact with it. There is a part of the country, the steaming mounds of scrub turkey nests; the shivering quills of an echidna; the silent majesty of a strangler fig, that is - thank god - always in me. Hidden away in a small, quiet compartment somewhere even when I'm on the most crowded pavement, slipping through the busy hallways of a mall, or wedged up against someone on the train.

Watching Attenborough's films gives me a chance - not just to learn or revisit wonderful facets of the Earth that would be otherwise inaccessible to me, project myself millions of years through time - but to access that space, that space of nature that I will always yearn for. A connection to the land as my world grows increasingly cerebral and conceptual. I will always embrace that opportunity.

You might think that's pretty hyperbolic, but what can I say? That's what I get from Attenborough's documentaries. He didn't make me love nature, but he let me understand it, and cherish that understanding.
posted by smoke at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2012 [18 favorites]


Honestly, I'm unable to tell exactly how much Attenborough was involved with the production of this beyond providing narration. He isn't involved in the production or writing teams, he isn't an executive producer...

I suspect he's doing narration for the UK version of the series because his voice = the supreme authority of nature documentaries for that market.

Not meaning to downplay Sir David's influence on this production (he did, after all, kind of found the Natural History Unit at the BBC and remains its guiding star)... I just don't think this is really a production which Attenborough was involved in much beyond creating the division which made it and providing narration for the episodes.

That said, I love his style and the style of those who work under him, and look forward greatly to seeing this series.
posted by hippybear at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2012


Being an Attenborough junkie, I'm pretty sure he hasn't been involved in the writing/production side of a documentary series since Life in Cold Blood in 2008 (checking Wikipedia, he also did the relatively short First Life in 2010). Like Planet Earth, he's just narrating Frozen Planet because he's David F#######king Attenborough. It's impressive though when you see shots of him in the terrifyingly cold arctic in Frozen Planet and realize dude is 85 years old and still trucking.

Anyway, I think I've watched nearly every documentary series he's done, and I just want to hug the guy every day. It's like the first thing I think of when I wake up, "where the hell is David Attenborough so I can hug him?"
posted by palidor at 4:52 PM on March 17, 2012


Compare Attenborough from today (Frozen Planet, Planet Earth etc. basically anything in HD) with Attenborough of The Private Life of Plants (1994).

What you'll find is that any concentration on evolution as a mechanism, or explanatory theory, is completely lost, presumably for American audiences. The older series used the footage to illustrate and explain a deeper point. The new series use voiceover as a soundtrack for the footage.

Seriously, if you want to enjoy a nature documentary, get yourself to the pirate bay and get anything in 4:3 from before 1996. The picture will be low-res, but you'll come away smarter.

(Incidentally, other BBC docos from the 1970s and 80s, like The Shock of the New or The Ascent of Man blow modern docos out of the water as well).
posted by claudius at 5:34 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been a while since I watched the earlier parts of Attenborough's Life series, so I can't say for sure, but--is it really that the influence of evolution is lacking in recent series because of attempts to appeal to American audiences? If anything I'd think it's because the series written and conceived by Attenborough were indeed more thoughtful and focused on using footage to illustrate and explain a deeper point, while today's series are more preoccupied with capturing footage of certain spectacles in nature. As in, it's not an intentional political decision, but just what happens when a series is conceived by one man using a framework of ideas vs. a team of people with hi-tech cameras wanting to capture cool shit. Everything I've read and seen about series like Planet Earth and Frozen Planet indicates they were mostly just trying to film various isolated events, and it comes through in the presentation.
posted by palidor at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not saying it isn't a failure of these modern documentaries that they don't present deeper ideas, but I'm just not so sure it's an intentional move because of political considerations so much as incidental to their methods of production.
posted by palidor at 5:47 PM on March 17, 2012


What concerns me, Palidor, is if David Attenborough isn't doing "David Attenborough" any more - who will? Is that kind of nature documentary destined to be the first and last of its kind? I hope not. I will take his systemic, quiet ruminations over an imax spectacular of random shit any time.
posted by smoke at 6:47 PM on March 17, 2012


Yeah, it's definitely a loss. I've frequently had the same kind of thoughts about Carl Sagan, and he's been gone for a while. It's really rare to have a popular figure who is able to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for science and nature in a way that inspires other people to have the same kind of enthusiasm and appreciation. I mean, nature documentaries focused on spectacle are better than no documentaries at all, and I suppose at this point you can't expect these big budget productions to be concerned with how much they're actually teaching the audience. I guess you have to hope that people will develop their own understanding via the Internet and a variety of YouTube clips in place of thoughtfully produced major documentaries.

But you have to admit that spectacle by itself can still be pretty fucking incredible.
posted by palidor at 7:05 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, palidor, you might be right as to the reason for the deemphasis of evolution. It probably also has to do with the budgets for modern series versus older ones.

The cause doesn't bother me so much as the effect. I got the whole Frozen Planet series and kept falling asleep during them. They were beautiful, but vacant. They didn't get the mind working like the older ones.
posted by claudius at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2012


Ha yeah I was falling asleep during them as well. Also for some reason they made me feel kind of gloomy. I chalked it up to the desolate subject matter but in retrospect it might have been the "beautiful, but vacant" presentation. I didn't have the same problem with the final episode, with Attenborough on camera actually presenting ideas, and that makes sense. No wonder watching it made me want to go back and start at the beginning of my Attenborough collection (it's called the Attenbom[b], it's 150 gigabytes and the only collection of media besides music I have saved on my hard drive. Please forgive my piracy, BBC)
posted by palidor at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2012


For what it's worth, Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End Of The World put me to sleep... It could just be that polar documentaries are the movie form of Ambien.
posted by hippybear at 7:26 PM on March 17, 2012


Holy shit, palidor, I was all "neat! Herring and gulls and penguins!" and then all "OMG WTF WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?!?"
posted by lazaruslong at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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