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TV Shows - Documentaries

When I was young, back then in my primary school, when I was more or less 10 years old, I remember my favorite part during working days was special TV program for school kids broadcasted every day in morning hours with mixture of great educational documentaries and movies. After school we rushed home to watch those popular documentaries giving us maybe even better knowledge enriched with colorful multimedia experience than we could learn in school. I will always remember those days back in 70s and later in early 80s when black and white TV era ended and color TV entered the homes in great style, probably comparable to what internet added to home computers decade or so ago.

The most memorable and probably the most popular TV show about nature, biology, zoology and science in general was "The World of Survival", British famous documentary of the time narrated by various famous people and promoted by naturalists like David Bellamy. I still remember and quote from time to time, the episode where Bellamy moved the giant anchored ship only by pushing it for a couple of minutes with constant force, trying to prove water properties he was teaching about.

30 years ago television broadcasting here in Serbia was more or less similar to other European countries and production of educational documentaries actually was pretty good in both quality and quantity within only one national broadcaster of the time. Some would say that today's production is a little devolutionized comparing to past times, most likely due to much larger competition among many studios and production companies. I mean let's face it, if you own a national frequency today and want to survive on the cruel market (and earn small fortune out of it) it is easier to maintain mediocre shows like "Singing Idol", "I Got Talent", "Big Brother", "Survivor" or various reality shows of any kind. Surely only small percentage of the ratings goes for popularization of science or good history documentary shows. However, national services are funded differently and they don't depend on commercialism so much, so by definition they would be the ones investing more in education and producing TV shows that commercial TV studios reject. Sadly, this is not true for Serbian public broadcaster and while their efforts in producing non-commercial program are noticeable, still this is not enough and surely they could look up to themselves from the past and not to first private network next door. Hopefully this will change in the future.

To continue the story, even with only one television broadcasting, back in 70s I was enjoying very much watching educational documentaries. Those time were also exciting, for example, while investigating TV schedules of the past I ran into coverage of complete visit of Apollo 11 crew from their worldwide tour, only 3 months after their historical return from the Moon. I was still a baby when they landed in the Sea of Tranquility and my mother told me that I crawled under the table during the live TV coverage probably scared by unusual atmosphere in the house or by strange reactions of my parents and others crowding the room around small b&w TV set.

Carl Sagan in Cosmos

However and to conclude the great 70s, after the years filled with adventures of Jacques Cousteau in his amazing serial "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau", the best TV Show of the time and probably one of the top of all times was "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" made by extraordinary Carl Sagan. This TV serial introduced new standards into creating scientific documentaries with CGI, acting scenes and well explained topics, even the most difficult to understand theories are simplified and narrated in a fabulous fashion. Many years later, my first internet purchase ever was a set of 7 DVDs of complete Cosmos series and I watched it with same enthusiasm as the first time.

Today, lots of things changed since then and the most important was the birth of television networks during the later years in 80s and last decade of previous century. While BBC in Great Britain is still one of the top producers of TV Shows in the area of documentary films with many astonishing serials like "Planet Earth", "Life" or "The Ascent of Man", center of the industry world nowadays is moved to US. Before any others this is all about Discovery Channel Network, National Geographic and History Channel. This three networks now covers almost anything possible in the world of documenting humans and nature within multiple channels broadcasting worldwide. New century came with new technology in form of High Definition in both video and audio systems and these networks adapted almost instantly. TV producers are now enriched not only with possibility to use computer graphics imagery to better present the nature and science but also new generation of presenters and narrators in a face of young and perspective scientists and Hollywood actors are following the Carl Sagan footsteps amazingly well and TV documentaries are now superb shows worthwhile watching every day.

Additionally, they are endless source of keywords for later internet reading, simply because finishing watching the show on TV is only a beginning of reading the articles on the net within same topic of interest. My Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts are filled with scientists, astronauts, TV presenters, actors and actresses, writers, broadcasters, bloggers, all the interesting people that post extraordinary articles on everyday basis. Not just that, this is two way communication, most of them are open for conversations, answering interesting questions and participating in commenting daily events. It is the endless source of brain food.

To get back from internet to TV and my personal habits, I made a watching list on my TV set with only documentary channels and I must say this list is the most visited section in our typical evening. Even when nobody is watching the TV, this list is almost always on, especially last winter when Viktor and I enjoyed watching Bear Grylls in his "Man vs Wild" or "Ultimate Survival" how this show is titled in Europe or "the guy who eats snakes" how Viktor calls him. This post is short to list all the shows I am watching, but out of the head I want to mention "Naked Science", all TV shows hosted by Michio Kaku, Phil Plait's "Bad Universe", "Through the wormhole with Morgan Freeman", "Extreme Engineering", "Megastructures", "Great migrations", "Life After People", "How the Earth was made", "The Universe" and many others. Once, in order to get History Channel I did change the cable provider couple of years ago, and by my humble opinion, this is maybe the best and the most provocative channel of them all in my list. With exception of Hitler and Nazi period in recent years, their shows are not afraid to go on the edge of science and even though shows like "Ancient Aliens", "The Bible Code - Predicting Armageddon" or "UFO hunters" are perhaps to say the least controversial, I founds them very watchable. Anyways, for breakthrough discoveries you need bold ideas, right?

Hopefully I intrigued you at least a little with my interests and habits. There will be no bright conclusion for this post, instead only couple of links and articles bellow as a little reference for your surfing pleasure.
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