If you're short on time, here's everything you need to know: "Human Planet" is an absolute must-own series on Blu-ray.
The Discovery/BBC co-produced documentary is hands-down one of the most breathtaking in a library of past greats that includes "Life" and "Planet Earth." Shot over four years in more than 70 locations, the six-part series profile humans living in some of the harshest environments on the planet.
And indeed, it's the human element that separates this production from the others. Whereas we might stare in awe at the stunning landscapes or animals spotlighted in "Planet Earth" or "Life," with "Human Planet" we relate. The BBC Natural History Unit has managed to track down and film members of our species surviving in places that seem more fiction than reality — and performing feats that border on the edge of superhuman. You'll find yourself expressing amazement out loud more than a few times.
Some of my favorite moments include:
The rain forest tribesman who climbs more than 100 feet to gather honey from a beehive for his family. As someone who owns several hives, I can tell you that I hate being stung and dress my best to avoid it. And yet, here's "this guy," precariously pursuing honeybees with absolutely no protection from either the bees or the deathly fall that awaits one misstep.
- Children looking for the world's largest spider (the size of a dinner plate) in the jungles of Venezualan because they're apparently "a delicious snack." You'll gasp as these mini Shelbos crawl out of their holes and the kids scoop them up, careful to avoid the nasty fangs (used as toothpicks afterwards — seriously) and painful barbed hairs.
- The Bajau fisherman who not only freedives some 65 feet to the ocean bottom to search for food — but stays under for more than two and half minutes. Shot in real-time, you'll find yourself taking more breaths than usual as this diver pushes his body beyond the limits our our own.
Naturally, "Human Planet" is a stunning showcase for high-definition technology — raising the bar in many ways over its predecessors and continuing the evolution of extreme filmmaking. The sound and picture (1080i/16:9) from the Blu-ray set was exceptional on my 46'' HDTV setup; along with all of the extras that include the now-standard "Behind the Lens" bit at the end of each special. This set truly deserves a home in your collection.