There are entirely too many good viewing opportunities this month, so we've sorted them into categories to make it easier to digest.
For nature lovers
• Most of us think of sloths as lazy, slow-moving creatures that sleep all the time, but there's more to this unusual creature than meets the eye, as the Nov. 5 PBS "Nature" special "A Sloth Named Velcro" reveals. The special about an orphaned baby sloth rescued and raised by a conservation journalist includes fascinating facts about the species' biology and behavior as well as the conservation measures that are saving them.
• A documentary as tense and compelling as any thriller, "Virunga" is about the fight over a national park in civil war-torn Congo, where a small group of rangers battles a rebel militia, poachers and unscrupulous oil company developers — with conservationists and the wildlife they protect caught in the middle. It premieres Nov. 7 on Netflix.
In "Virunga," national park rangers in the Congo do battle with rebel militia, poachers and oil companies. (Photo: Netflix)
• "Invasion of the Killer Whales" explains how the global warming-induced disappearance of ice in the Arctic has increased the orca population there while having serious consequences for other species, including narwhals, seals, bowhead whales and polar bears. It premieres on PBS's "Nature" on Nov. 19.
• Thousands of elephants and rhinoceros used to roam the African plains, but last year alone, 25,000 elephants were killed and entire populations of rhinos were wiped out. Poachers murder elephants for their valuable ivory and kill or harm rhinos for the purported — but bogus — medicinal value of their horns, seriously endangering both species in the process. Premiering Nov. 18 on Animal Planet, "Saving Africa's Giants with Yao Ming" follows the basketball star to Africa as he investigates the crisis and leads a WildAid campaign to raise awareness and stop the black market trade in his native country.
• Here, kitty! Nat Geo Wild's fifth annual Cat Week celebrates the world's iconic — and endangered — felines. Kicking off Nov. 28 with big cat tracker Boone Smith's "Man v. Lion," the marathon includes "Leopard: Ultimate Survivor," which follows a mother and her cubs (Nov. 29); evolutionary speculation about the creatures in "Future Cat" (Nov. 30); "Tiger’s Revenge," about the fierce rivalry between sisters (Dec. 1); "Lion Gangland," focusing on a struggling pride (Dec. 2); and "Tiger Wars," in which a young tiger battles his grandfather for dominance (Dec. 3).
A futuristic robot cat stands in the rubble of Fukushima in "Future Cat". (Photo: National Geographic Channels)
• In conjunction with Big Cat Week, Nat Geo Wild is launching a three-month wildlife initiative called "Safari Live." Beginning Nov. 2 online at WildSafariLive.com at 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., cameras will give viewers access to Africa's wildlife daily through Jan. 31, and on TV, at 9 a.m. starting on Nov. 29. Visit the website for more information.
For armchair archaeologists
• King Tutankhamun died more than 3,000 years ago, but the mystery of the Egyptian boy king's life and death endures. Who was he, and how did he die? Premiering Nov. 2, the Smithsonian Channel special "King Tut's Final Mystery" answers these questions by performing a virtual autopsy on the famous mummy.
• A few years ago, brothers Bill and Jim Viera discovered ancient stone tunnels and structures in the Massachusetts woods. Further research led to evidence of giant bones and skeletons, and a quest to find further proof of a lost civilization that takes them across America in "Search for the Lost Giants," premiering on History Nov. 4.
Bill and Jim Viera search for ancient stone tunnels and structures in "Search for the Lost Giants." (Photo: Katrina Wojtasik/A&E Networks)
• You've heard of dinosaurs like Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, but probably not Spinosaurus, and there’s a reason for that: remains of only one have ever been found, and they were destroyed in World War II. But a recent discovery has changed all that, and it's the subject of the PBS "Nova" special "Bigger than T. rex," premiering Nov. 5.
• The hunt for giant sasquatches continues with the return of "Finding Bigfoot" to Animal Planet on Nov. 9, kicking off with a two-hour premiere that takes the hunters to Alaska. Other destinations in the eight new episodes include New Jersey, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio.
• More than 2,000 years ago, Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang Di had 9,000 clay solders, complete with weapons, fashioned to protect him in the afterlife. Today, they stand entombed in a mausoleum, with one question remaining: how were they made? Premiering Nov. 12, the PBS "Nova" special "Emperor's Ghost Army" employs 3-D technology and weaponry experiments to reveal the answer.
Clay soldiers commissioned by Qin Shi Huang Di stand ready in "Emperor's Ghost Army." (Photo: Lion Television)
Honoring Veterans Day
• The Brad Pitt movie "Fury" centers on the crew of a Sherman tank during the last days of World War II, and the Smithsonian Channel special "Tanks of Fury" goes behind the scenes of the film and interviews "steel coffin" war vets, giving these battle experiences real-life perspective. It premieres Nov. 9.
• Filmmaker Sebastian Junger honors his late friend and war reporter Tim Hetherington by taking a walk along the train tracks from Washington, D.C., though Pennsylvania and the East Coast with two combat vets and a photojournalist to reconnect with America and discuss how war affected them. The result is "The Last Patrol," which debuts on HBO Nov. 10.
• Post-traumatic stress disorder afflicts many returning war veterans, and the A&E docuseries "Dogs of War" shows how the organization Paws and Stripes trains shelter dogs to help them cope. Premiering Nov. 11, it moves to Sundays on Nov. 16.
• "Navy SEALS — Their Untold Story" celebrates the elite commando unit through firsthand accounts, rare footage, home movies and war mementos. It premieres Nov. 11 on PBS.
Navy SEALS emerge from the water. (Photo: Courtesy of SEALSWCC)
For history buffs
• In 1820, a great white shark attacked and sunk the whaling ship Essex, leaving her surviving crew adrift in three small boats. Their harrowing story, in which the men fight the elements and each other and resort to the unthinkable to survive, was the real-life inspiration for Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." It’s also the subject of "The Whale: Revenge from the Deep," an Animal Planet movie starring Martin Sheen as an old man retelling the story of his first voyage as a cabin boy. It premieres Nov. 26.
• In March 2014, a massive landslide buried the town of Oso, Washington. About 400 people died in a recent landslide in Afghanistan, and more than 1,000 were killed in the Himalayas by landslides in 2007. What causes such cataclysmic movements of the earth? PBS investigates the problem and reveals how monitoring technology can provide advance warning of disaster in "Killer Landslides," premiering Nov. 19.
• Five catastrophes, including an asteroid strike and a volcanic eruption, have wiped out life on Earth. But the next mass extinction may not come from cataclysmic external forces; if we continue our destructive behavior, we'll be to blame. Premiering Nov. 30, Smithsonian Channel's "Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink" explains what happened in the past, how we can learn from it — and avoid making the same mistakes.
• How much has the world's population increased since you were born? How old would you be on the planet Mercury? How many species have become endangered in your lifetime? Answers to these and other questions that put you in a global context can be found at the BBC's Your Life On Earth site. Just enter your date of birth, height and gender into the infographic and a series of interesting statistics will appear.
For the health-conscious
• If we are what we eat, examining the history, science and culture of food warrants scrutiny, and National Geographic Channel is taking on the challenge with the six-hour, three-night miniseries "Eat: The Story of Food." Airing Nov. 21-23, the special employs chefs, authors, scientists and food experts to weigh in on everything edible in episodes entitled "Food Revolutionaries," "Carnivores," "Sugar Rushes," "Sea Changes," "Guilty Pleasures" and "Staffs of Life."
• With our hectic lives, most of us don't get enough sleep. But few of us realize the impact sleep deprivation has on our health. Premiering Nov. 30 on National Geographic, "Sleepless in America" outlines the consequences and offers solutions on how to get more — and better quality — shut-eye.
• Celebrating shelter dogs, the Fox special "The Great American Dog-A-Thon" spotlights rescued canines and people who've saved and adopted them. Hosted by Hilary Swank and featuring appearances by Scarlett Johansson, Josh Duhamel, Miranda Lambert, Kristen Bell, Fergie, Paula Abdul, Betty White, LeAnn Rimes, Kesha and Carrie Ann Inaba, the Nov. 27 special will give viewers information about adopting a dog or donating to a rescue organization.
For science geeks
• An essential part of coping with the complexity of the world is quantifying time, space, objects, distance and the like, and the way we do it is examined in the British series "The Science of Measurement," now available on Acorn.tv. Hosted by Oxford science professor Marcus Du Sautoy, the three-episode series focuses on how measurements have shaped the course of history, science, civilization and daily life on Earth.
• How do you top tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon? Nik Wallenda will attempt to better his last Discovery Channel stunt by walking a wire between towering Chicago buildings, wearing a blindfold for part of it in a Nov. 2 live special. Read what he says about it here.
• Nat Geo Wild's wilderness veterinarian, "Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet," begins her second season on Nov. 1 (get a sneak peek in the video below). "Life Below Zero" returns to National Geographic on Nov. 4 with new episodes about the Alaska homesteaders, preceded by a marathon beginning at noon that culminates in a new compilation episode on Nov. 2. The loggers of "Ax Men" return to History for an eighth season on Nov. 30, followed by the premiere of "Alaska Off Road Warriors," a competition series in which five teams race across the rugged wilderness of the 49th state, battling each other and the clock.
• Whether they're doing it to reconnect with each other, save a marriage, cope with illness, or bond without distractions, three families agree to unplug and go off the grid for three months in TLC’s new series "Risking It All." In the Nov. 9 premiere, the three clans pack up and prepare to embark on a life of living off the land without devices and running water.
• In India, 400 million people live without electricity and constant power outages plague those who have it, especially in the city of Kanpur. Premiering Nov. 3 on PBS's "Independent Lens," "Powerless" explores this frustrating situation from the points of view of citizens, a power company official, and an electrician who illegally taps the power grid to supply the poor and make a profit.
• Alcohol aficionado Zane Lamprey travels the world to find unique local libations and exotic delicacies in National Geographic's series "Chug," premiering Nov. 24 with a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the series follows Lamprey as he travels by train and learns toasts and drinking customs along the way. It's preceded by "Eric Greenspan is Hungry," in which the titular host seeks meaty eating experiences (definitely not for vegetarians!)
• The subject of economics can be confounding, but a new Web series streaming free at WeTheEconomy.com and via other cable and digital platforms aims to demystify it with 20 entertaining short films, some of them animated, on topics including government regulation, the Federal Reserve, globalization and Wall Street. From producers Paul G. Allen and Morgan Spurlock, who directed the humorous "Cave-o-Nomics," the series features directing contributions and/or appearances by Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Sarah Silverman, Adrian Grenier, Judah Friedlander, Patton Oswalt and Robert Kennedy Jr.