WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Sunday on BBC America
THE GRADE A
WHAT IT’S ABOUT The famed BBC Natural History Unit and its legendary onetime leader, David Attenborough, look at predators and their prey over this multipart series, beginning Sunday with hunter techniques; Arctic hunters (July 10); jungles and forests (July 17); oceans (July 24); plains and savannas (July 31), coasts (Aug. 7); conservation efforts (Aug. 14); and “the making of” (Aug. 14). The Attenborough/BBC NHU collaboration dates back 60 years, with classic films including the “Life on Earth” series, “The Blue Planet,” “Frozen Planet,” and so on.
MY SAY At 90, Attenborough remains very much in the hunt himself, with these eight hours as evidence. Still globe-trotting, still producing, still explaining the wonders of the world with a voice uniquely and utterly his own, the great naturalist seems as he always has been: Awe-struck and childlike. Is there anyone on the planet who can summon quite the same level of enthusiasm for the Portia jumping spider as Sir David?
His life work continues, but — as for everyone — time is pressing. Time, in fact, is a long-standing Attenborough theme. Taken as a whole, his “Life” series — dating back half a century, with “The Hunt” in some ways just the latest installment — is testament to the permanence of the natural world in an impermanent human one. It’s a world above and beyond time, subject to its own rhythms determined by the will to survive or simply exist. There’s a triumphalist undercurrent to this work, with a lush, soaring musical score as reminder. There’s also a nobility to the hunter and the hunted, alongside an inescapable aesthetic: The natural world is astonishingly beautiful, and must be saved.
This world, in other words, might not be so permanent after all.
Like all the films that came before, “The Hunt” therefore is an urgent, almost desperate plea for preservation, although the actual hour on conservation doesn’t arrive until near the end. Attenborough never mixes politics with storytelling, but you can still read between the lines: Will that polar bear trudging on literally thin ice be around half a century from now (and who will be the Attenborough of the future to record her hunt if she is?)
As a viewing experience, “The Hunt” is both familiar and fresh. You’ve seen variations of almost everything here before — it’s just the packaging that’s a little different. Attenborough and the Natural History Unit also have a fondness for apex predators, but that doesn’t mean these hours are all lions and tigers and bears. In fact, most of the hunters are small and (as usual) the team finds much of its inspiration — and most of its oddballs — in the world’s oceans.
The Natural History Unit has also deployed the latest, coolest gadgets in its hunt for the hunters -- always does -- most notably the “Cineflex,” or a gyro-stabilized camera that puts you right over a cheetah’s flank. As you might imagine, the effect is spectacular.
BOTTOM LINE As always, magnificent with a moving subtext — how many more of these will Attenborough anchor? Also, how much longer will some of these hunters hunt?