I was pretty excited to catch the new show, Life, on the Discovery Channel on Sunday night. Two episodes in, I don’t think it attains the splendor of Planet Earth quite yet, but it’s one more show that demonstrates the informative and positive side of television.
With all of the educational potential it has, I wish television didn’t have such a bad reputation. Junky and exploitative shows seem to hog the attention but TV is not (yet) completely full of gibberish. So I want to illuminate some thought-provoking series I’ve come across. I realize that I live in an area with several PBS stations and many of the documentary series I’ve listed below may not be available everywhere. But if you click on the links, you’ll find that some of the shows can be watched online or are available on DVD.
Globe Trekker was the first travel show I ever got hooked on back in the day when it was called “Lonely Planet”. (I was that strange kid who hated Dawson’s Creek and preferred to watch the Travel Channel.) Globe Trekker concentrates on a down to earth travel style and is more purely about travel than any other travel show I’ve seen. It’s not shown on the Travel Channel anymore, but can be found on PBS stations.
AfroPop is a PBS documentary series that focuses on contemporary Africa and the African Diaspora. Labeling itself as the “ultimate cultural exchange,” many documentaries in this series present reflections on interactions between clashing cultures or viewpoints.
Voces is another documentary series aired on PBS stations and it focuses on Latino culture. While the documentaries series often have undertones of social justice, this series tends to be less abstract and more historical than those of the AfroPop series.
This is a six part documentary that examines the history and current events of the fascinating country of India. The wonderful cinematography and the enthusiastic host, Michael Wood, are equally engaging. Because the series covers a lot of history in a relatively short amount of time, it doesn’t go into the smaller details of certain events. But for those of us who have never studied India, it is an enlightening overview of the country.
In this documentary series, young people who are figuring out what they want to do in life are sent on a road trip through another country. The participants drive a van or RV and visit people who have achieved success in unique and/or creative fields. They interview these people about how they got to where they are and try to see where the advice can fit into their own lives.
This show is pretty much a given on this list. I’ve written about my passion for No Reservations before. I don’t always love Anthony’s take on each country, but I like how he tries to approach his destinations from a unique angle. And I know I will be entertained by each episode. And beyond Anthony’s apparent passion for travel, I love that he gives voice to the often misunderstood area between cynicism and awe of life’s hope and wonder.
So far only a pilot episode of this show has aired, but I hear that a six part series will be developed and aired next year. There are many documentaries out there that cover a music of a specific region, but I haven’t seen a series like this that focuses solely on music around the world. And as I world music lover, I am stoked to see more of this series.
I know these are two “different” series, but I haven’t seen enough of the show Life yet. What I find more appealing about Planet Earth (so far) is that it covers a broader range of species and their interactions. Life seems to focus more on animals which can become a bit stagnant. But in that stagnancy is a nice reminder that animals really are all the same. And because it showcases some animals not covered in Planet Earth, I will continue to watch it as much as possible.