HD Heads-Up: October 12-18

TV One continues to exploit in HD a genre that Sky TV inexplicably ignores with Tuesday’s premiere of Wild Planet: North America.

It’s a seven-part Discovery Channel series that mercifully has been saved from SD mediocrity on Sky’s own Discovery channel.

Sky’s pitiful HD service could be improved immensely by the addition of an HD natural history channel – beyond movies and sport, there isn’t a genre worthier of 1080i showcasing.

Case in point: compare National Geographic Channel’s shabby SD premiere of Chasing Ice, which won best cinematography honours at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, with the breathtaking 1080p transfer just released here on Blu-ray (with excellent extras).

TV One has recognised this with a largely sterling line-up of local and international HD wildlife series in its 8.30 Tuesday slot.

The latest won’t have the heft of a BBC Earth production, although it is executive produced by Keith Scholey, formerly head of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, and is the first in a planned series that explores the world continent by continent.

Highlights include HD cameras being hoisted to the tops of mammoth sequoias, the largest living organisms on earth, and lowered down into Carlsbad Cavern, one of the deepest caves on the planet, and high-speed cameras that capture everything from “leaping humpback whales to flying squirrels soaring through the forests at night”.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wild Planet: North America launches with “a fast-moving instalment capturing the sweep of species’ movements in the region, using aerial-view maps and simple graphics of migratory routes to striking effect.

“Touching down on land, the show moves in close as sea turtles emerge from the waves to claim a beach like troops landing at Normandy, and as a mustang stallion leads his harem and their colts on a search for water in the Utah desert …

“Beyond the life-and-death scenarios, there’s abstract beauty in images of snowstorms, the aurora borealis and the 20 million bats that explode out of Texas’ Bracken Cave (home to the largest concentration of mammals on the planet).

“The opening instalment’s aerial shots of the bats marks the first HD documentation of this phenomenon.

“Among other firsts: a complete hunt by wolves in Labrador and underwater footage of Kodiak bears diving for salmon.”

THR’s only criticism was Tom Selleck’s commentary lapsing into “purple patches of grandiloquence”, which it judged “unnecessary when the filmmakers’ images are so potent.”

Concurred the Los Angeles Times: “Born of the technological marriage of modern cameras and television monitors, these films are gorgeous from first to last; it’s hard not to regard the images they offer — not merely their content, but also the fact that anyone managed to take them in the first place — as something like miraculous.”

Also new to TV One is another example of a genre long overdue for an HD makeover, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces (TV One, 8.30 Friday).

Imagine how “architectural porn” like  TV3’s popular Grand Designs would benefit from the extra detail that HD would deliver.

The Independent dubbed George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces “Grand Designs on a hundredth of the budget” while Metro said: “Offering a cut-price alternative to the big-budget ambitions of Grand Designs, architect George Clarke enthuses over property transformations that turn tiny sites into des-res delights.

“Pick of the bunch is a beautiful home hewn out of a disused underground public convenience in Croydon, while a horse box and a clapped out old coach become holiday lets.

“Not one to be left out, Clarke sets about turning a decaying caravan into a dream holiday home for his own family.”

Other HD programming news of note for the week starting October 12:

❑ The latest cooking show to be dished up in HD is Testing the Menu (TV3, 7.00 Saturday), in which chef Nic Watt puts a Kiwi cuisine spin on courses for his new Japanese restaurant, Masu, which, as luck would have it, opens this month in SkyCity Auckland’s Federal Street dining district

The Walking Dead returns to primetime with the premiere of season four (TV2, 9.30 Tuesday) 32 hours afters its US broadcast

❑ The postponed Tabatha Takes Over takes over from Devious Maids (TV2, 9.30 Wednesday)

 ❑ Season finales of Hyundai Country Calendar (TV One, 7.00 Saturday), Body of Proof (TV2, 10.30 Tuesday) and Major Crimes (TV One, 11.10 Tuesday)

❑ Late-night re-runs of The Vampire Diaries, from season three (TV2, 12.50am Monday) and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, from season 12 (TV3, 11.05 Wednesday)

❑ The network movie premieres of The Last Song (TV2, midday Sunday), Tooth Fairy (TV3, 7.00 Sunday) and Just Go With It (TV2, 8.30 Sunday), and re-runs of Cyborg Soldier (TV2, 3.20am Sunday) and Fast and Furious (TV3, 8.35 Monday).

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One Response to “HD Heads-Up: October 12-18”

  1. Seen some of Wild Planet: North America on BD and it looks superb, really do wish Tom Selleck would shut up at times. Wouldn’t it be innovative if nature shows of this ilk had no narration and just relied on the visual narrative a la Koyaanisqatsi et al?

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