'Frozen Planet' will warm your heart

In this undated image released by Discovery Channel/BBC,

In this undated image released by Discovery Channel/BBC, polar bears walk on ice floes during the filming of "Frozen Planet," a seven-part series premiering with the first two hours Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 8 p.m. (Credit: AP)

THE DOCUMENTARY "Frozen Planet"

WHEN | WHERE Discovery and TLC, begins Sunday at 8 p.m. ("The Ends of the Earth") and 9 p.m. ("Spring"); subsequent episodes through April 15.

REASON TO WATCH One of the TV events of 2012 -- plus, it's fun to hear narrator Alec Baldwin say stuff like " . . . Jakobshavn Isbrae, the world's fastest glacier."

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A Discovery coproduction with the BBC's renowned Natural History Unit, filmmakers spent four years at both ends of the earth to capture what is almost certainly unprecedented footage -- most notably a pod of killer whales acting in tandem to create a wave with their tails that dumps seals off pack ice to (near) certain death.

Sunday's first hour in fact is the scene-setter -- a wonderful sprawl of images, scenes and facts that establishes the visual and even emotional power of the entire series. You will see polar bears in a torrid embrace, icebergs the size of the Pentagon calve off the side of glaciers, ice crystallizing out of frigid air, and an exploding ice dam. The 9 p.m. hour, "Spring," brings a narwhal traffic jam, an Adélie penguin rock thief, predatory sea slugs and 14-year-old caterpillars.

MY SAY What is any BBC Natural History Unit blockbuster -- from "The Living Planet" (1984) to "The Life of Birds" (1998) to "The Blue Planet" (2001) and now "Frozen Planet" -- if not a laundry list of superlatives? Stunning, beautiful, hypnotic, engrossing, spectacular . . . That oughta do it here as well, except "Frozen Planet" unexpectedly adds another word: Unprecedented.

Watching a team of orcas create its own miniature tidal wave in pursuit of dinner is one of those transcendent moments that should leave you both speechless and grateful to be alive. But really, it's one of many here, with others involving penguins, gray wolves, narwhals and even an icy finger of salt known as a "brinicle." The buzzkill arrives in episode seven when legendary naturalist and voice of the Natural History Unit, David Attenborough, now 85, steps in for Baldwin to explain how global warming is spoiling all this. Until then, enjoy the spectacle.

BOTTOM LINE A TV miracle, on ice.

GRADE A+

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