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The Beauty of Our Home on 'Planet Earth: A Celebration'
August 31, 2020  | By David Hinckley

BBC America has just put together the kind of show that gives reruns and mashups a good name.

Planet Earth: A Celebration, which airs at 8 p.m. ET Monday on BBC America, AMC, Sundance, and IFC, is an hour-compilation of great moments from two previous and more extended nature specials, Blue Planet IIand Planet Earth II.

If you didn't see those earlier specials, this is a quick and easy way to redeem yourself in the eyes of my colleague David Bianculli. It also gives you a wonderful hour of television.

If you saw the earlier specials, you will want to watch again, because the subject matter is as riveting as the cinematography is gorgeous.

As its lineage suggests, this production divides its time about evenly between land and sea.

Land means places like the Namib, which is thought to be the world's oldest desert after some 55 million years with lots of sand and almost no rain.

Somehow, some hardy creatures manage to survive here. That includes a pride of lions and just enough food to keep them alive if they can catch it.

Segments here show the big cats chasing after a herd of oryx and then a giraffe, which turns out to be, excuse the phrase, a tall order. They note that most lion hunts end in failure, which is a problem when you have a limited number of opportunities.

The action may then shift to underwater, where the predator is sharks, and the prey is an octopus. 
Octopi turn out to be some of the smartest creatures on the planet, and the extraordinary footage here helps explain why.

In one scene, we see an octopus cover itself with shells it has picked up from the ocean floor, thus making itself look like a big random pile of discards rather than, say, a hearty meal.

When a shark does grab an octopus and starts digging its teeth in, the octopus quickly moves to clamp a tentacle over the shark's gills, making it impossible for the shark to breathe and forcing it to let go.

That's quick thinking, not to mention stellar execution.

Planet Earth: A Celebration gives us the view from below when humpback whales and other large sea critters swim in to dine on a huge school of herring so dense it blocks the light coming from above.

It's a feeding frenzy, basically, but it's photographed so remarkably that it looks like a graceful underwater ballet, mesmerizing to everyone except presumably the herring.

A different type of dance unfolds when a colony of snakes sets out to turn some newly hatched iguanas into lunch. Watching the snakes slither rapidly across the rocks and sand, strategically placing themselves as a group to trap the iguana, gives a real sense of how menacing the natural world can be.

With new music by Hans Zimmer and Jacob Shea, Planet Earth: A Celebration tells its stories in ways we rarely, if ever, see them. In many cases, we wouldn't want to see them quite this close, which makes it all the more gratifying that these camera teams have done it for us.

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