BBC's 'Human Planet' goes to extremes

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REVIEW

THE DOCUMENTARY "Human Planet"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 8 p.m. on Discovery

REASON TO WATCH From the folks who brought you "Planet Earth" and "Life."

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This Discovery co-production with the BBC's heralded Natural History Unit was three years in the making, filming in remote locations in 40 countries. And it is all about . . . people.

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The film will air over six hours, although the British version -- which aired in the U.K. in early January -- was an eight-parter that wrapped up with a visit to New York City, among other cities. (It included segments on beekeepers and rat-catchers in the big town.)

The U.S. edition eschews the urban jungle for the real one. Sunday's episode, for example, is titled "Life at the Extremes," and visits a village in Indonesia where people still hunt whales; tribesmen in Africa who literally steal food from lions; a Mongolian boy who trains an eagle to hunt, and New Guinea tribesmen who build houses in very tall trees.

MY SAY This is almost a redundant observation but . . . of course, "Human Planet" is a marvel of photography and photojournalism.

As seen through the all-seeing lens of "Human Planet," the world is large beyond comprehension, where people and cultures -- bless them -- are actually untouched by "Jersey Shore" or haven't a clue who Khloe Kardashian is. There are people who build tree houses in New Guinea because that's what they do, and have done for millennia. There are hunters who chase a pride of lions away from their kill so they don't have to chase down the wildebeest themselves.

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But what's missing here is plain old human curiosity.

Producers too often forget to ask why -- why (for example) build a house in the trees? Wouldn't it be better to build it on, um, the ground? The result is that the viewer is left with a series of vignettes that are visually arresting and inherently interesting, but ultimately don't tell you much about the people they focus on.

BOTTOM LINE Another Discovery/BBC beauty, but short on answering obvious questions.

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GRADE B+

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