‘Primates’ Is One Of The Most Memorable Episodes Of ‘Nature’ In Recent Memory

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

PBS Distribution’s recently released Nature episode Primates is one of the most enjoyable entries that the hit long-running wildlife series has produced in recent memory.  Produced in partnership with the BBC, the nearly three-hour episode was released on DVD Jan. 26.  The two-hour, 40 minute episode succeeds so well in part because of its overall story, which will be discussed shortly.  The story’s segmentation is just as important to its success as the story itself.  It will be discussed a little later.  The program’s cinematography puts the finishing touch to its presentation and will also be discussed later.  Each item addressed here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode.  All things considered, they make Primates the new front runner in this year’s list of best new documentaries.

Nature: Primates is among the best recent episodes of PBS’ hit, long-running wildlife-based series.  Additionally, it is among the best new documentaries released on DVD so far this year.  That is proven in part through the nearly three-hour-long episode’s central story.  The story in question centers on the various species of primates that populate the planet, what makes them unique from one another, and what they all have in common.  Audiences will be surprised to learn that hundreds of various species of primates live all across the world, from China, to Africa’s various nations, to Sumatra, to various regions of South America and so many other regions.  There are chimpanzees, macaques, lemurs, baboons, drills, and so many other species around the globe, as viewers learn through the story.  It truly is incredible to learn how many species of primates populate the planet and the very range of their habitats.  What’s more, learning about the adaptations that each species uses as well as their personalities adds even more interest to the central story.  Case in point is how certain species actually have developed the ability to use “tools” in order to do something as simple as crack open oysters and eat them.  At the same time, viewers will be just as surprised here, to learn that the species in question is actually overextending its resources (the oysters) just like humans have overextended our resources over centuries.  That is certain to create plenty of discussion in itself.  On another note, viewers will be interested to learn that another species uses its tail as an extra “hand” as it swings across the treetops of its habitat.  As if that is not enough, viewers will be just as intrigued to learn about the similarities between certain primate mating habits and those of humans.  

Learning about the various species of primates and their unique adaptations goes a long way toward making Primates a memorable episode of Nature.  Learning about their unifying factor – their social behaviors – makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment, too.  Viewers will be quite interested to learn about the family and community bonds that primates share from species to species.  Watching a group of spider monkeys excited to help a mother care for her newborn – including doing their part to get rid of a python hanging in a tree near the group – will make viewers say “awwwww” while also leaving them in awe.  That awe applies also as a family of primates in Africa fights off a leopard just to protect one of its own.  Just as interesting to watch is how another primate, forced out of it group, is actually “welcomed back in” under cold conditions so that it can stay warm along with the rest of its group.  That clear sense of care and concern, even despite the old primate’s age, is so amazing to experience.  It is yet another sign of obvious intelligence among primates.  It reminds audiences, along with the other noted examples and others not directly noted here, that humans need to check themselves at   the door so to speak.  It serves to remind humans that just because we consider ourselves “more evolved” than other living beings does not necessarily mean that we are more evolved.  There are clearly other creatures that are just as intelligent as us if not more so.  Keeping all of this in mind, the way in which primates operate collectively is just as certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained as all of the information about the hundreds of primate species that live around the world and their adaptations.  Even with this in mind, there is still another element to examine, and that element is the episode’s segmentation.

Audiences who purchase the DVD will note that the episode in whole clocks in at approximately 160 minutes.  That is equivalent to two hours, 40 minutes.  That is not a short run time, which goes without saying.  Thankfully, considering the overall length of the program, it is divided into three separate segments.  Each segment runs approximately 53 minutes in length, as its own episode within the bigger overall episode.  The separation means that audiences can watch the segments at their own pace.  They can go to the refrigerator or the bathroom between segments, or they can watch when they want and never feel overwhelmed.  This ensures that audiences will recall information from each segment easier.  It also means in the end, that audiences will be more inclined and encouraged to watch all three segments.  To that end, there is no doubt about the importance of the episode’s segmenting.  Together with the depth of the overall story, the two elements collectively go a long way toward making this episode of Nature so enjoyable.  Now as much as the episode’s content and segmentation do to make the episode appealing, they are still not all that makes the DVD a success.  The episode’s cinematography rounds out its most important elements.

As audiences learn about the hundreds of primate species that live around the world, their adaptations and the very human-like way in which they live, they are also treated to some truly stunning visuals.  The wide shots of the canopies over jungles in South America, showing primates making their way across the treetops create such a powerful impact.  There is something special about seeing the green treetops against the blue sky, primates making their way through the treetops.  The ground-level shot of another primate species breaking open oysters as waves crash nearby in Sumatra makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment.  Maybe it is because of the color balance.  Maybe it has something to do with the frame rate or maybe even the very high quality of the footage.  Regardless, the fact of the matter remains that this sequence is just as visually appealing as the story told during the sequence.  In yet another notable sequence that comes early in the episode’s lead segment, a silverback gorilla relaxes with his offspring as the narrator explains the deliberate move.  Watching him endure everything from his rambunctious offspring is just like watching any human father, with his kids using him as their own playground.  The moment must be seen to be believed, but will have viewers just as engaged and entertained as any other scene because of its simplicity.  It is a truly touching moment, what with all of the close-ups of the group just lazing about, and just one more example of the impact of the episode’s cinematography.  When it is considered along with the rest of the episode’s cinematography, the episode’s overall content, and segmentation, the whole of those elements makes this episode one of the most memorable episodes of Nature to come along in some time.

Nature: Primates is one of the most enjoyable episodes of the long-running wildlife-based series that has come along in recent memory.  That is due in part to its central story, which covers a lot of ground.  The story introduces audiences to the vast multitude of primates that live around the world and their adaptations before showing how the primates, regardless of where they live, all seem to have a sense of family and community.  All of this is sure to keep viewers watching throughout each of its three segments.  Speaking of the segmentation, that approach is a positive in that it will encourage audiences to watch the whole presentation by allowing them to watch at their own pace.  The cinematography rounds out the most important of the episode’s elements.  The visuals that are captured throughout the program make for their own enjoyment.  When it is considered along with the episode’s overall content and segmentation, the whole makes the DVD well worth watching and a presentation that more than deserves a spot among this year’s top new documentaries.  Nature: Primates is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:




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