Discovery’s $2 million per episode series Planet Earth debuts Sunday

reality blurred doesn’t typically cover nature documentaries, primarily because they don’t include casts of people who get drunk and throw things or become racists. But an exception deserves to be made for Planet Earth, the BBC and Discovery Channel’s 11-episode series. It’s a lot more satisfying and thrilling to look at the planet than some self-absorbed narcissists.

The first three episodes–“Pole to Pole,” “Mountains,” and “Deep Ocean”–air Sunday starting at 8 p.m. ET. Two more episodes air each Sunday until April 22, Earth Day, when the whole series will air as a marathon. While some reality shows may not yet film in HD, the series “is the first natural history series to be filmed entirely in high definition,” according to a BBC press release. The show will also air on the Discovery HD Theater channel. The Discovery Channel says that “more than 70 camera operators spent over 2,000 days in the field,” and the result, as USA TODAY’s Robert Bianco says, is a good reason to buy an HDTV.

The show “drew high ratings — up to 9 million viewers an episode — when it aired in England on the BBC last year,” USA TODAY reports. The narrator, Sigourney Weaver, who the paper notes is “seldom prone to hyperbole,” says the series is “the most gorgeous, detailed and mind-boggling view of the planet I’ve seen.”

That’s an understatement. At one point in the first episode, Sigourney Weaver notes that a “cameraman spent 45 days in hiding” to film a bird “never before filmed in the wild,” and the results were worth it. Before that, the camera drifts from the canopy of a rainforest to its floor, through branches and down the trunks of trees. Nearly all the footage is that stunning and awe-inspiring: a long tracking shot of a wolf chasing a calf from directly overhead, time-lapse film of thunderheads developing, the sun rising in Antarctica, a sandstorm in the Sahara. Who needs drunken idiots when you have that?

Planet Earth [Discovery Channel]
Behold ‘Planet Earth’ in all its glory [USA TODAY]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.