Skip to main content

Critic Shales says BBC's 'Life' latest showcase for HD

Pulitzer Prize-winning TV columnist Tom Shales is calling "Life," the new nature series now airing on Discovery Channel HD (and a handful of the HD channels) the latest best example of producing and watching content in vivid HD.

"How sad that Marshall McLuhan didn't live to see high-definition television. The brilliant Canadian theorist famously and immortally declared, 'The medium is the message,' and HDTV brings that thought to vibrant and scintillating life," Shales writes.

According to the longtime critic (who isn't known to praise much of what he writes about), "The medium [of HD] is capable of such extraordinary and breathtaking pictures that even old messages are new again. So it is that one side effect of the HD revolution has been the gratifying and edifying return of the nature documentary." Shales' comments came in a March 21 review in The Washington Post.

"Life" began its run last Sunday (March 21) and will air two consecutive hour-long episodes each Sunday night through April 18. (Discovery then repeats both hours each Sunday night at 10 p.m. EDT).

Similar to the highly acclaimed "Planet Earth" series captured in HD a couple of years ago, "Life" also is a BBC production with original narration from noted naturalist/historian David Attenborough. But the American version of the first series was given an American narrator (Sigourney Weaver), and this latest series is given similar treatment. In the U.S. version, Oprah Winfrey does the honors.

For the record, Shales does not think "Life" is quite as good as "Planet Earth" in some respects, but praises the HD production value (and like its predecessor, some rarely seen footage) of the new series.