The Story of Cats, from ITV and PBS
January 14, 2018 11:00 AM   Subscribe

The Story of Cats is a documentary mini-series, first aired on ITV then re-cut with new narration on PBS: Nature, now as a two-part series instead of three, with a different narrative flow. Where ITV focuses on comparisons of wild cats with "our moggies," PBS traces the evolution of cats as they spread across the world, and into our homes. ITV [via YouTube] ep 1: Wild at Heart; ep 2: Cute Response; ep 3: Super Cats | PBS ep 1: Asia to Africa; ep 2: Americas
posted by filthy light thief (34 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, this is great. I'd seen the PBS version, but didn't know the ITV version was different. I'm glad to get to watch these; enjoying them quite a bit! Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


cool! I'm going to watch this with my son, cuddly times ahead!
posted by daisystomper at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2018


Cats, huh? Are they as interesting as, say, dogs?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:51 PM on January 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Cats, huh? Are they as interesting as, say, dogs?

All pets matter, eh?
posted by wotsac at 12:58 PM on January 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was going to link to Cat Watch 2014, a three part BBC documentary where they spied on a bunch of cats. I'm sure I heard about it here first. Anyhow it's not on BBC iPlayer anymore... that's a shame, I'd pay if it were available to rent, if you know what I mean.
posted by adept256 at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


My cats almost entirely ignore what's on my TV, but with at least the PBS version, they were absolutely enthralled. I enjoyed it, too, mind you!
posted by kimota at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Given that GPS-tracking cat collars will soon be on the market, it should soon be possible for amateurs to repeat the experiment.
posted by acb at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


My cats almost entirely ignore what's on my TV

My cat Nancy seems to enjoy watching black and white Film Noir on TCM, like with strong whites and deep blacks. She's sat through The Maltese Falcon seemingly watching it more than once.

She could also just have a crush on Bogie.

posted by hippybear at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Are they as interesting as, say, dogs?

The answer to this question is in E2 of the ITV version.
posted by hippybear at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Cats, huh? Are they as interesting as, say, dogs?

While people often show a preference for one or the other—I know I do—I'd argue that cats are in some ways, not all, more interesting than dogs. Dogs are social creatures by nature, and so are we. We understand dogs.

Cats though are more alien. They can be social creatures, but not by choice. Left to their own devices, cats adopt a solitary life. But cats can be social animals, and that flexibility makes them—to me, anyway—inherently fascinating. They can, under need, develop bizarrely complicated social structures that include multi-party neutral zones and highways, and time-shared territories—not bad for a brain the size of a walnut. That flexibility is something I don't think I've seen repeated in other animals and it's passing strange these solitary hunters can do it at all, much less so well.

Dogs, they built complicated social structures at the drop of a hat. It's in their nature, practically their raison d'être . But cats…where they hell have they picked up that talent? Why? Cats have this entire complicated social tool-set they can haul out at will, but they've evolved as solitary hunters. So damn weird.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2018 [20 favorites]


Cats are great, and the shows mean well, but... am I the only person who is sick of over-produced documentaries like this?

Where the narrator (three quick-cut shots of the narrator's head rotating at different angles)... over-emphasizes (quick cut of a zoomed-in shot of the word "over-emphasizes," underlined in red)... everything she says? (zoom in on her mouth so close you can see bits of lunch stuck in her teeth).

Your subjects are lions and cats for crying in the beer, you don't need to jazz them up with obnoxious hyperactive over-emphasized editing! Whatever happened to the David Attenborough mode of nature documentary?

Also, that guy at the start roaming the savannah interacting with lions is eventually going to encounter a highly unfortunate incident, and then Werner Herzog will make a documentary about him called Kitty Man.
posted by JHarris at 3:09 PM on January 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


Were there shots of the narrator anywhere in the ITV version? I honestly don't remember this. Do I have to rewatch? I just spent the afternoon watching these.
posted by hippybear at 3:17 PM on January 14, 2018


You're ahead of me hippybear, I'm only on the 2nd of the ITV episodes but they haven't shown the narrator (Olivia Coleman!) at all yet.

Cats, huh? Are they as interesting as, say, dogs?

Please be aware that Johnny Wallflower pushes the Big Dog Agenda like The Whelk pushes socialism and has been described by the mod team as "an inveterate cat-hater."

Whatever happened to the David Attenborough mode of nature documentary?


JHarris everyone here knows that you would prefer nature documentaries narrated by Tom Servo and Crow. Come to think of it, that sounds pretty great.

filthy light thief, I am having a delightfully lazy Sunday watching these with my cats. Thanks for the post!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:36 PM on January 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


My cats almost entirely ignore what's on my TV, but with at least the PBS version, they were absolutely enthralled. I enjoyed it, too, mind you!

My cat only watches BBC nature documentaries. Nothing else. Here she is watching meerkats. They're cats right?
posted by srboisvert at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Maybe I just didn’t notice it during the first two episodes but the music editor for the third ITV, super cats episode was having fun.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:12 PM on January 14, 2018


Also, that guy at the start roaming the savannah interacting with lions is eventually going to encounter a highly unfortunate incident, and then Werner Herzog will make a documentary about him called Kitty Man.

That's Kevin Richardson, and as I recall he's actually pretty realistic about the risks. The lions he hangs with he's interacted with since they were cubs, so they generally treat him as a member of the pride, but lions in prides sometimes kill each other.
posted by tavella at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I seem to remember that Timothy Treadwell was also pretty realistic about the risks of hanging out with bears, and had a set he would visit that were used to him, and it was an underfed interloper on the move that eventually proved to be his end.

Were there shots of the narrator anywhere in the ITV version? I honestly don't remember this.

No, no, that was just me miscommunicating my issue with hyper-edited documentary style through example. The point wasn't a close up of the narrator, but that every half-second (or so it seemed) changing the shot, while the narrator speaks painfully slowly, so the shots could illustrate nearly everything she said. I've mentioned it before, and am continually surprised that more people aren't annoyed with it, it makes these kinds of shows basically unwatchable to me.
posted by JHarris at 7:00 PM on January 14, 2018


That's Kevin Richardson, and as I recall he's actually pretty realistic about the risks. The lions he hangs with he's interacted with since they were cubs, so they generally treat him as a member of the pride, but lions in prides sometimes kill each other.

In one of the episodes he talks about how the cats are all individuals and that he has different relationships with each of them. Some are family or friends but some are only business acquaintances and not to be fully trusted.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2018


I've noticed my roommate's cat that's adopted me does like to watch TV, and she will definitely curl up on or near me so she can see the screen.

She seems to prefer the space and nature docs I like to watch, and will pay a lot of attention to random stupid vine/fail/whatever video compilations, but seems entirely uninterested in "talking workbench" type videos like AvE or bigclivedotcom.

But, oddly, she seems to like the space documentaries the most and seems to pay the most attention to those.

but... am I the only person who is sick of over-produced documentaries like this?

I am soooo sick of this overly hyperactive and dramatic production style infesting documentaries and what has rapidly become bland low effort infotainment. And The Story of Cats is really a mild example of this.

It's everywhere, now. I can't even watch a basic space documentary (Looking straight at you, The Universe, wtf!?) about, say, the gas giants of our solar system without it having some overly thrilling soundtrack, jump cuts and a bunch of unrelated hyperactive graphics mixed in meaninglessly.

Or there always has to be some incredibly fearful angle to some basic fact, like how gruesomely someone would die when exposed to the temperatures, pressures and atmosphere of Saturn, complete with booming action adventure soundtrack.

I mean it's so bad in so many different formats that if you wanted to put on a tinfoil hat you might be able to make a case that there's some weird cultural thing going on that's a response to people being afraid of science, reality and facts or that someone's trying to manipulate people into being that way.

Anyway, it's getting harder and harder to find a documentary that one can safeuly have a proper nap to without being woken up wondering if you accidentally ended up watching a comic book action movie.
posted by loquacious at 7:44 PM on January 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm OK with cats, but what really makes me want to watch this is Olivia Colman.
posted by amtho at 8:08 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of our cats really loves Sufjan Stevens’ “Tonya Harding” video. I don’t know if she’s a fan of Stevens or Harding; given her temperament I suspect the latter.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 8:23 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group: Cat News - Current Issue: № 66, Autumn 2017:

First sand cat kittens sighted in the MOroccan Sahara by A. Sliwa, S. Azizi, E. Alifal, A. Essalhi, M. Endichi and G. Breton
We report here on the first sighting and photographic documentation of kittens of African sand cats Felis margarita margarita in the region of Addrar Souttouf in the Moroccan Sahara near the Atlantic coast in late April 2017.

First footage of wild sand cat kittens

team's blog post (panthera.org)

Sand-Cat Sahara Team (facebook)
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:28 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Having watched them all the biggest, most glaring difference is how much more information the UK version conveys than the American version. The PBS version appeals to emotion with all the mentions of fear, love, the use of blood-thirsty and the overly dramatic music. I found watching the PBS version after having seen the ITV version incredibly distracting. On the other hand, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. On the other hand, cats.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:30 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Cool ! My daughter is going to be enthralled by this. And I'm sure she won't even complain that it's in English. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 12:59 AM on January 15, 2018


I've sat and watched television with many cats over the years, though, in truth, I've usually ended up watching the cat watch television rather than what's on the tube itself. A particular form of entertainment in and of itself, and always worthwhile.
posted by metagnathous at 5:52 AM on January 15, 2018


The sand cat kitten footage is very cute, but it would be cuter if they hadn't decided to run the text directly over their eyes.
posted by tavella at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


oh my god, where is the content warning for the little tree cat cronching a big giant tree locust mantis in the first five seconds
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:53 PM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Nature doesn't come with a content warning.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 PM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I liked the "Somewhere in the Moroccan Sahara..." caption. Very Carmen Sandiego.
posted by tivalasvegas at 10:44 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


OMG, Where in the world?...
posted by hippybear at 10:57 PM on January 15, 2018


Nature doesn't come with a content warning.

And Jeebus, can we talk about Nature On PBS for a moment? Like, if this had been a Nature episode they would have spent 30 minutes getting us acquainted with the giant tree locust's parents and then their struggles with mating and how fraught all that is and then they finally gave birth and LOOK AT ALL THEIR CHILDREN ISN'T THIS GREAT and then the little tree cat eats one of them AND YOU'RE FUCKED FOR THE REST OF THE EVENING.

Lke, can Nature On PBS cut that shit out? Because I love nature and love watching nature shows, but deliberately manipulating humans into a state of empathy and then utterly destroying them emotionally TIME AND TIME AGAIN is a way to make habitual PBS viewers (like me) stop watching you (which I have).

We get it. Nature is brutal. So is just existing. And this kind of thing isn't giving us sympathy for The Natural World, it's turning us off to your programming.
posted by hippybear at 11:11 PM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


this is why I ordered my cat to abandon her Natural state at the door when she came to live with me. petting a cat that just ate a spider is like petting a spider, transitively. you kill anything you want to kill, I said to her, and in fact I encourage it, but you do it when I am not looking. if I don't know about it, it's like it never happened.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2018




Yeah, imposing excessive narrative is a no-go for me to, hippybear. There was a Nature piece on desert elephants a while back where they were all "Look! The herd has had two calves? WILL THEY LIVE? DUH DUH DUNNNNN!" and I noped right out.

I don't mind when the narrative exists in the wild, for example there's another famous documentary where a mother elephant's newborn can't walk, and she and her older calf are struggling, because they don't want to leave it but they need water themselves. The documentary didn't gin it up with a ton of musical stings and foreshadowing, at least the version I watched, which may have been the British one.

(for the concerned, after a day or so the calf's tendons finally relaxed and he was able to walk, and he eventually grew up into a gigantic bull.)
posted by tavella at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


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