Television has changed so much throughout the decades since its golden era. Family friendly sitcoms have given way to oversexed adults only comedy. Dramas have gone from being largely family friendly to unnecessarily gritty and violent, again making them appropriate only for older viewers. Even networks such as History and Discovery that were once powerhouses thanks to their educational content have fallen by the wayside. That is thanks to their programming becoming victim to the reality TV fad. Throughout it all, PBS has managed to hold strong and weather all those changes that have made mainstream television anything but worth watching. The end result is that PBS has become the last bastion for truly worthwhile programming on television. With shows such as NOVA, Nature, American Experience, and other standards, PBS has become the network for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of mainstream television. It has managed to do so even with other programs such as its recently released documentary series Life on The Reef. The three-part series takes viewers down under to experience the beauty and fragility of the Great Barrier Reef. The very first and most noticeable element of the series that viewers will notice is its cinematography. The camera work presents some rather stunning views of the reef. This includes both in calm and storm. The views are so stunning that especially in its first two segments, viewers will be left wondering why it wasn’t also presented in 3D. The program’s overall structure is another key element of its success. It is separated into three distinct segments. This not only helps to keep viewers engaged but also to establish each segment apart from the others. Last but hardly least worth noting to the series’ positive is the overall approach to its presentation. While there are mentions of the reef’s fragility and the efforts undertaken to protect it, at no point does it allow itself to become subjective. It remains its objectivity throughout, thus making it that much more enjoyable to watch. That last element is just as important to the whole of Life on the Reef as its other noted elements. All three elements considered together show Life on the Reef to be even more proof of why PBS again remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on TV today and why this series in whole is one of the year’s best new documentaries.
PBS’ new documentary series Life on the Reef is one of this year’s best new documentaries and one more example of why PBS remains today the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television. Originally presented on Australian TV, audiences will instantly be blown away by the work of the series’ cinematography. Both in sun and storm those behind the lens make viewers feel as if they are right there in person watching each shot. From the soaring aerial shots high above the waves to the equally impressive footage of the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef the shots are absolutely beautiful. What’s more, the footage is crystal clear. It leaves one wondering why the series was not presented in 3D as well as HD and SD. One example of those incredible shots comes as the camera crews capture footage of the reef both before and after Cyclone Ita made landfall in April 2014. It is incredible to see that life beneath the waves can be so dramatically impacted by a weather system well above the waves. The footage of the green turtles coming to Raine Island to lay their eggs is just as stunning. It is incredible to watch thousands of turtles return to the very place where they were born only to lay their own eggs. Seeing it happen through time lapse photography makes it even more incredible. And then there are the absolutely out of this world aerial footage putting on display the massive expanse of the reef and its islands. The contrast of the blue waters against the sandy beaches and lush, green vegetation on the islands is breathtaking to say the very least. These are just a few examples of why the cinematography exhibited through Life on the Reef is such an important element of its presentation. It is not the only element that makes the series enjoyable, either. The series’ overall structure is just as important to its whole as the work of its camera crew.
The overall structure of Life on the Reef is just as important to its enjoyment as its cinematography. That is because it does not try to jam all of its content into one, overly extended presentation. Rather it is separated out into three distinct segments, with each segment running roughly an hour in length for a total run time of one hundred eighty minutes. Each segment focuses on one specific aspect of the reef. The first segment focuses mainly on life beneath the waterline. The second aims more at life both on the reef and its islands. Fair warning for viewers, there is some slightly in-depth discussion in this segment centering on reproduction in and around the reef. And yes, there is even footage of some of the reef’s animal inhabitants in the process of reproducing. These moments might not be entirely proper for younger viewers. There is also some equally in-depth discussion on the inter-dependency of the reef’s inhabitants both human and otherwise that is also continued in the series’ third and final segment. This is tied back in to the, again, outstanding cinematography displayed throughout the series and to its third and final key element, the approach taken to the presentation.
The cinematography put in display throughout the course of Life on the Reef’s three segments is reason in itself for audiences to watch this incredible documentary series. The overall structure of the presentation makes it even more enjoyable. It allows viewers to focus on any one part of its three segments that they want to focus on without having to fast forward or rewind too much. They can just choose the segment that they want and go from there. In connection to that structure is the approach taken by those that headed up the whole project. Considering the constant reminders to viewers about the fragility of the reef and the inter-dependency of all of its inhabitants, one would think that it was just another activist piece. But even with that message echoing throughout the course of the series, it doesn’t do so to the point that it could be considered preachy per se. Rather it comes across as feeling organic in those instances when it comes up. It doesn’t feel forced. Neither does any other part of the series. It makes all three segments all the more worth the watch and all the easier to watch. By the time viewers reach the end of the series’ final segment, they will be left feeling that they have experienced something special. They will be left feeling that they have experienced what is one of this year’s best new documentaries and one more way in which PBS has proven itself yet again to be the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television.
Life on the Reef is one of this year’s best new documentaries. It shows this through so many avenues including its outstanding cinematography and smart overall structure. Its ability to avoid becoming another activist piece is just as important to note to its success. Each element is important in its own right to the whole of the presentation. All three elements together make clear why it is so enjoyable. Thy create a picture in whole that audiences of so many types and ages will enjoy. It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=life%20on%20the%20reef&origkw=Life+on+the+Reef&sr=1. More information on this and other titles available from PBS is available online now at:
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