Monday, March 01, 2010

Parenting Gifted Children: Must-see TV, Discovery Channel's LIFE Series

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Our family watches very little TV, and when my boys were young, they watched almost none. It helped that we didn't have cable, or any TV reception for the (ironically very large) screen in our basement rec room. As a toddler, one of my boys expressed a desire for a TV like grandma's, that "had channels." Our "channels" were the VCR and DVD player, which meant viewing content was carefully curated.

In some ways, that doesn't matter now. My boys, now 9 and 11, will watch Cartoon Network until I see their brains melting out their ears. In other ways, it was a good thing. They are both avid and eager readers, who are just as happy watching educational shows on Discovery Channel, History Channel, Travel Channel or Food Network as they are with CN's brain candy. Well, almost as happy.

Sometimes the "idiot box" can be quite smart. Discovery Channel's upcoming 11 part-series, LIFE, is one of those times. I received a preview of the Reptiles and Amphibians episode, and, wow. Just, wow. The cinematography is stunning. The episode I previewed features amazing camera work, amazing creatures, and amazing moments. Praise God!

Kidding. Sort of. You know I'm not the "praise God" type and I'm definitely not a creationist, but this tiny glimpse into the variety of life on our planet brought about by natural selection is mind-boggling.

I should note that in college I was a wannabe evolutionary biologist of sorts, taking many classes on animal behavior and mating systems. I love this stuff!

Speaking of animal mating systems. There are few scenes of an, ahem, delicate nature in the Reptile episode. The close-up snake sex was a bit unexpected, and the chameleon scene in the desert. OMG!

Really, the poor girly chameleon is essentially wandering the desert, gets raped and is left to wander the vast wasteland again, pregnant. That sequence makes me feel despondent. I'm fighting an existential crisis as I write about it. My son's words as a five-year-old haunting me, "I don't understand. Why are we even in this life?" Why, indeed?

But mostly, the episode left me with a sense of wonder about our world.

I feel like I could easily watch an entire hour-long show on any one of the many animals highlighted in this one episode. Indeed, I predict the shortcoming of the series will be that it covers so much ground so quickly--breadth instead of depth.

However, the website offers glimpses beyond what will show up on your TV screen. Take a look behind the scenes, play some games, and of course, there's an entire Internet full of information, should you be inspired to learn more after watching the show.

LIFE premieres March 21 at 8 PM EST. I can't wait!

Disclosure: I received the LIFE media kit courtesy of my Gayle, who knows I like to get my geek on. She had no idea about my past flirtation with evolutionary biology, but next time we are together I'm going to regale her with stories of masturbating monkeys and lesbian lizards (which were shockingly not featured in this episode).


Drew @ Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

You reminded me of a long-ago trip to the zoo. Spring was apparently in the air, and everything was getting its freak on. The mongooses were literally a blur. The snakes were ... good lord, how many of them were in that pile.

But the orangutans. Holy crap, they didn't even wait for a female to be available. One of them sat leaning up against a rock, facing the window, with one foot propped up on the window frame, just having a pleasant afternoon with himself. And looking us all right in the face while he did it.

I wish I'd had a video camera -- not for that, so don't even go there -- so I could capture all the parents bringing their little kids up. "Let's go look at the orangutans. They're right over here and ... Oh good God! Look, over there, it's lemurs, quick, come this way!"

Kim Moldofsky said...

Hilarious! My masturbating monkey story is from a college primate behavior class. I'll save details until I can tell it again.

But I also have a story about a male baboon who got excited (in THAT way) when I walked by his cage at a certain point in my menstrual cycle. Ah, college days....

JohnoMori said...

I am a sucker for any of those shows. Up close snake sex sounds a bit much though. We'll sssssss-ee I guess. (sorry, couldn't resist).

Liza said...

Noah was obsessed with some Discovery & NatGeo channel dinosaur shows earlier this year, including 1 that described T-Rex arms as being for "sexual tickling" -- never a term I imagined trying to explain to a 3 year old!