What We’re Watching This Week 04/29/17

Planet Earth II

Planet Earth II

Planet Earth II is probably the closest you’ll come to virtual reality by way of a TV binge (for now, at least). Calling it a nature documentary is practically a misnomer. The reboot of the 2006 BBC miniseries is an immersive combination of gorgeous cinematography, a lively score, David Attenborough’s pithy narration, and some downright drama in the animal kingdom. Seriously — rooting for a baby marine iguana to outrun a pack of vicious racer snakes in the Galapagos is an honest-to-God nail biter. Each episode travels to a different terrain: islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and most interestingly, cities. The show takes on a new tone in this final “Cities” episode, which explores animal habitats in sprawling urban landscapes. This episode in particular is at times knowingly cinematic: the eerie swarms of starlings over a sunset in Rome are straight out of Hitchcock’s The Birds; the tracking shots of suspended aerial leaps of langur monkeys chasing one another from rooftop to rooftop in Jodhpur, India is reminiscent of Ang Lee’s iconic fight sequences in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. But this episode alsofeels the most urgent regarding the obvious message this series always implies but never preaches — climate change is ever-apparent, and human impact on ecosystems large and small is devastating. Impressive filmmaking technology aside, Planet Earth II is a testament to our ability to not only appreciate but empathize with the natural world. And that’s exactly the kind of binge-able content we need to galvanize the public to invest in a sustainable future while we still have time to make that choice. ~Julianna Marchant

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Okay the main reason I’m watching this is that I used an episode as a source for a speech I had to give, but that got me binging all the past episodes on Youtube for hours on end. John Oliver’s hilarious commentary on relevant topics bring awareness to subjects that most have never even given a second thought to. His recent episode on the French Elections warned against electing a candidate whose ideology was approaching that of Trump, and he even addressed the fact that most of us Americans didn’t have a clue what was going on in France. Oliver’s random antics and funny ventures are hilarious on TV, but still showcase the deep problems that plague our world today. For example, he started a church and raked in a comically large amount of money to show that televangelists are making tons of money while making false claims on television. He bought time on Fox News to air a commercial that described what the nuclear triad was so that Donald Trump would see the ad when he watched the news in the morning. To top that off, he even flew to Russia to interview Edward Snowden under some questionable circumstances. What I love about this man is that he never fails to entertain while still delivering meaningful content through thorough journalism and satirical exaggerations of problems we have in society. There’s a saying that we used to listen to politicians and laugh at comedians, but now we listen to comedians and laugh at politicians. And in today’s world, that’s true more than ever. ~Kevin Chan