Oh, Sir David Attenborough . . . how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Blue Planet . . . Planet Earth . . . Life in the Undergrowth . . . and a gem I just recently encountered, his 1979 BBC debut, Life on Earth. I haven’t seen it, but apparently someone rummaging through a British charity store recently encountered one of only about 100 copies of its score the composer ever pressed, and they’re now being offered for sale on CD online.
Listening to the meditative and elegant sample tracks of Gymnopedie for Jellyfish, or Arabesque for Flatworms, I am transported back to the nature documentaries that aired on the lazy Sundays of my childhood, in which the pace was slow as molasses and many long moments passed narrator-free so as to better contemplate the mystery of nature. Behold: the brook trout spawning, or the grizzly grabbing salmon. It was a simpler time, when the TV’s four channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS, which in my little remote corner of rural southeast Tennessee went snowy all night, to return to the air early the next morning preceded by the Star Spangled Banner and space shuttle lifting off) were inhabited by the likes of Marty Stouffer’s Wild America and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom(I briefly considered naming this blog wildkingdoms.com, but it turned out the domain was already taken). How I miss them sometimes.
I also briefly considered buying the Life on Earth soundtrack, but after doing the Dollar-Pound conversion and learning it’d cost me $21 to buy and ship to Colorado, the cheapnik in me won out. And Life on Earth itself remains out of grasp for now too. Though it has been released to DVD in the UK, the US has not been so fortunate. That is a shame, because the British Film Institute ranked it 32nd in the top 100 British Television Programs of all time, ahead of Walking with Dinosaurs and the 1995 Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice (Why is that ranked only 99th? Why? Why?) Wikipedia has some sort of conspiracy theory about Life on Earth never being released here because of its (gasp!) explicit evolutionary content, but plenty of other evolution-based programs have been put on DVD here no problem so I have a hard time buying that. Here’s a clip (featuring a very young David Attenborough) on the making of it to give you a taste for what you’re missing:
In any case, we will hopefully soon have the next best thing because we still have D.A. with us, and he has done a bit of a re-do of Life on Earth that is currently airing on BBC One: Life. Though all my British readers may be having a “Duh!” moment here, most of us in America are quite ignorant of it — or at least I was until about two weeks ago. Let’s hope this Life does find a way — to jump the pond.
Have any British readers seen it yet? Any early reviews? And Discovery Channel, if you are reading this, please leave David Attenborough’s narration intact in any US broadcasts. No Sigourney Weaver, Morgan Freeman, or (god forbid) Tom Cruise. Your attention to this matter is greatly appreciated. Thank you.