Monday, August 17, 2009

The History Channel's "Evolve" Series

I've been watching the History Channel's 11-part "Evolve" series, each of which covers a different aspect of evolution--size, flight, skin, sex, and so on. I liked the concept of the show and had high hopes for it.

The show plays more like a music video than a science documentary. On the hypothesis that their audience suffers from ADD, "Evolve" does not allow any one human being to speak for more than thirty seconds. The show zips from clip to clip, possibly because the producers are terrified that their audience will get bored with the science. Well, the science is not boring, but their writing is. They are forever stating the obvious. For instance, in the "Flight" episode, they define what it means to fly. Ever seen a bird before? All right then. Also, there is distracting muzak playing in the background. I found myself listening to the muzak rather than the narrative and soon became lost. Finally, the producers employ a number of fancy tricks using digital technology, which better suits music videos. It seems to me that their graphic technicians are showing off just for the sake of showing off. Technology has its place, but should be used in moderation.

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a documentary with a learned host, like David Attenborough. Gray hair is a plus. A host functions like a teacher, which is how most of us got our education in the first place. A teacher is a good thing. Don't discard the teacher! Nothing is better than a good teacher!

"Evolve" is by no means alone. Many of the latest science documentaries have this tawdry music video flavor about them. If this keeps up, it could prove a boon for the book market.

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