Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 25, 2005
Reality TV takes natural bent
Even Jessie the dog paws to watch Nature
By SUZANNE ELSTON
We recently invested in a home entertainment system. The centrepiece is a huge screen, the biggest one we could afford. Rather than putting it downstairs in the family room, we had it installed in the kitchen where our family gathers most often, so that we could all enjoy it.
Despite our best efforts, the kids weren't impressed. For starters, because we live out in the country, it only carries one station - the Backyard Nature Channel. While Brian and I both find the contents of the programming visually stunning and very soothing, it's a little slow paced for our kids. They prefer the fast pace of video games and computer-generated images.
On the plus side, all of the programming on the Nature Channel is commercial-free. The downside is that it does get a little hard to watch after the sun goes down.
Our kids may not necessarily appreciate our investment, but Jessie the dog certainly does. She sits in front of the screen - sometimes a little too close for comfort - and watches by the hour.
Occasionally, when the action heats up, a rabbit will run across the screen and send her into fits of barking and excitement. If she's really lucky, she'll catch Coyote Cavort - an action-packed story that features a gorgeous male coyote as he makes his journey across fields and orchards. Jessie whimpers with pure joy when that show is on.
Reality programming is big on the Nature Channel. Jessie even stars in her own show, the Great Squirrel Race. Each week she is pitted against the wily black squirrels who usually manage to outrun her. During one action packed show, Jessie figured out how to bark just as a squirrel jumped from one branch to another.
We all watched with baited breath as the squirrel lost its footing and landed within Jessie's grasp. Talk about a crowd pleaser! And then there's Backyard Survivor, where owls and mice play out a real-life elimination drama each week.
What I like about the programming is that it mirrors each season. This time of year we are treated to shows featuring leaves growing on trees and the Spring Run-Off special, where melting winter snows and driving April rains mingle together as they travel from our tiny backyard creek to join the waters of the Great Lakes.
In summer, we are often treated to the Poplar dance - a spectacular show that features the delicate dance of shiny silver leaves, bouncing in the sunlight. Our early evening entertainment in August usually features Thunderstorm Theatre. It's really is something to watch.
Thrills and chills
A couple of summers ago we had a real treat when the Tornado Watch special was on. Forget about action movies. This show was filled with heart-stopping thrills and chills.
Come the autumn, we are tuned into the Fall Show of Colour. It's breathtaking. Spectacular hues of amber, burnt orange and crimson fill our wide-screen as the leaves spiral into the driving autumn rains. It is a sensual delight.
Being a big Christmas softie, I really enjoy the holiday specials that are aired around December. The Snowfall Show is pure eye candy. Watching the lovely white flakes twirl and dance, it's easy to see where Tchaikovsky got his inspiration for the Nutcracker Suite.
Which brings me to the nicest part of the Nature Channel. The soundtrack to most shows is extremely peaceful and the language universal.
Anybody can watch and enjoy the pitter-patter of rain, the rustling of leaves and the whistle of the wind. For the thrill-seekers in the house, there's the booming blast of Thunderstorm Theatre. There's always a little something for everyone.
Unfortunately, nothing's perfect. We are occasionally annoyed by something called Dirt Bike Bonanza, and because our big screen doesn't come with an "off" button, we're forced to sit through it. Fortunately the show doesn't come on very often and, given the other excellent programming on the Nature Channel, we really don't mind.
For me, the very best part of the Nature Channel is the evening feature, Sundown Spectacular. Rather than upsetting myself by watching the nightly news, I tune in to watch nature at its most glorious. And what's really neat is that no two shows are ever the same.
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