Tonight (Saturday, December 22) at 9:00pm ET/PT on Discovery, take a look back at the Frozen Planet documentary, coproduced with the BBC. If you missed it the first time, tonight is a sort of "greatest hits" hour, with some of the best sequences from the much longer miniseries -- including excellent narration by David Attenborough. This is why you have an HDTV: it's a set of scenes from the north and south tips of the Earth, filmed with incredible care. While some scenes are hilarious (most of the penguin material) and some are tragic (much of the musk oxen stuff), everything is photographed with the kind of insane how did they do that? quality.
There's a sequence involving a pebble-stealing penguin that exemplifies this film: without narration, it might not make sense. But with narration, music, and a remarkable combination of filming angles, it becomes a nearly human comedy about penguins trying to build their nests. The audio work also deserves a nod, as the penguins' squawks add an extra layer of weird hilarity.
While the special starts with a series of near-misses (in other words, predators fail), eventually we do get into sequences where prey animals don't make it. The film does not revel in gore, and shies away from closeups for the most part (one image of a seal being dragged down by a killer whale is particularly impactful, though). Because it is trying so hard to be tasteful and explain why the sequences are happening (so the predator groups don't starve to death), I'd say this one is thoroughly family-appropriate, though as always, if you have extra-sensitive kids you'll want to screen it first.
Here's a clip from the Alec Baldwin-narrated version, showing a bit of that penguin story. Tonight's special is narrated by Attenborough -- while you may prefer one narrator over the other, the story is wonderful either way. Enjoy:
If you're into the whole Blu-ray thing, check out Frozen Planet: The Complete Series (with the Attenborough narration). It's the kind of thing you can put on at parties and people will say, "Wow, nice TV."
Blogger disclosure: I was not specially compensated for this review. I did get to see an early version of the program, and it's worth your time for the penguin material alone.