Let’s think of it as an Earth Day Film Festival.
On Wednesday, our TV’s will be filled with documentaries – some charming (like “Monkey Kingdom,” shown here) and some angry, – about the planet. That’s for the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970.
Here’s a round-up (including mini-reviews) of key documentaries on Wednesday.
All times are ET, but please note: For National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild and BBC America, the PT times are three hours earlier; other channels have the same times ET and PT.The Goodall impact
– “Jane Goodall: The Hope”(9 p.m. and midnight, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild) was, you might say, 60 years in the making. We see glimpses of Goodall at 26, a pioneer in the idea of living with and observing the chimps. “Those were the best days of my life,” she says.
And we see her at 86, on the road for 300 or more days a year, while talking about nature and people. “I’m not the sort of person who likes the limelight,” she says. “I like sitting in the jungle.”
But this richly emotional film shows her global work, including youth groups in 100-plus countries. “I think she is Mother Nature … the most heart-warming mother of all time,” a 10-year-old says.
– “Jane” (noon, National Geographic) is a 2017 film that won an Emmy for director Brett Morgen, who skillfully weaved old and new footage, with a Philip Glass score.
This one includes Goodall’s 10-year marriage to the late Hugo Van Lawick. The new film doesn’t include Van Lawick, who died in 2002 at 65, but has great African scenes with their grandchildren.
– “She Walks With Apes” (9 p.m., BBC America) focuses on three women who pioneered living among chimps and apes – Goodall; Birute Galdikas, 73; and the late Dian Fossey. It also introduces new generations of female researchers.
– “Climate Change: The Facts” (8 p.m., PBS) has a tone of urgency. “It’s happening in your world and in mine,” says Surita Narain, a scientist and activist in India.
Alongside a cascade of weather-disaster footage, we hear people ranging from Greta Thunberg, 17, to David Attenborough, 93, who began talking about this 30 years ago. Back then, world leaders – conservative and liberal – also spoke up; the film shows George H.W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher. And now? “It’s a hoax,” Donald Trump says in one clip. “It’s a money-making thing.”
– “Before the Flood” (2016), 2-4 p.m., National Geographic. Leonardo DiCaprio goes on a global search for examples of climate change. It’s a Fisher Stevens film, with music by Trent Reznor.
– “The Story of Plastic,” 2 p.m., Discovery. Spanning three continents, this views plastic’s impact in two ways – sending chemicals into the atmosphere during production and then filling landfills with the result. It focuses on producers pushing single-use products and on groups fighting them.
– The DisneyNature unit creates stunning films, which work well in movie theaters. Two gems will be on the Disney Channel – “Monkey Kingdom” at 3:50 and 6:35 p.m., “Penguins” at 5:15 and 9. Then again, you can see all 13 DisneyNature films on the Disney+ streaming Service; that includes “Elephant” (narrated by Meghan Markle), which was supposed to be debuting now in theaters.
– Miniseries: Lately, cabke channels have made ambitious miniseries, with spectacular sights and sounds. Two key ones rerun – “Serengeti,” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Discovery; and “Planet Earth II,” 3-9 p.m., BBC America, rerunning from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Other feel-good shows
– “Born Wild: The Next Generation,” 8 p.m., National Geographic and NatGeo Wild (which rerun it at 11) and Disney. This will mix live and taped elements, leaping between continents to show baby animals. It will be hosted by Robin Roberts of ABC … which then reruns it at 8 p.m. Saturday.
– “H20: The Molecule That Made Us” (9 p.m., PBS) takes a long view – 4.3 billion years long – of water on Earth. The discussions by scientists are accompanied by some truly splendid photography.
– Cable channels will also be rerunning films about appealing places. That includes BBC America (8-10 a.m.), National Geographic (9 a.m. to noon, 4-8 p.m.) and Nat Geo Wild (noon to 8 p.m.)
– Two Discovery Channel shows will talk with celebrities and others about environmental efforts. At 8 p.m., “Josh Gates Tonight” will have interviews; at 10, Zac Efron hosts “The Great Global Clean Up.”
– “Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth,” which has just reaches Apple TV+, follows a family on Earth Day. The story is so-so, but there are splendid bits of art and music, plus the soothing voice of Meryl Streep … who also narrated the gorgeous DisneyNature film, “Wings of Life.”