On rare occasions, the calendar co-operates with our needs.
That’s true this year: Earth Day, always on April 22, falls neatly on a Saturday. That’s a good day for people to get out and enjoy (and even help) nature … and to watch nature shows on TV, from “Big Beasts” (shown here) to kids’ cartoons.
There will be a lot available, because this has is a key subject for many filmmakers. “We need to fall back in love with nature, the way we (did) as kids,” director-producer James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) said to the Television Critics Association.
By now, there’s more urgency involved. Climate change “is perhaps the biggest and most awesome challenge human civilization has ever faced,” said Julia Cort, of PBS’ “Nova.”
The two goals – loving nature and slowing climate-change – entwine. “If we can save the elephants, we can save the great Congo Basin forest,” said Paula Kahumbu, a Kenyan-born conservationist. “And that is going to be one of the most important carbon sinks for planet Earth.”
She traveled the globe for Cameron’s “Secrets of the Elephant,” a two-year project that airs Friday and Saturday on the National Geographic Channel, then reaches Disney+.
Those three forces – PBS, Nat Geo, Disney — are key players this year, alongside Apple TV+ and BBC America. Here’s a sampling:
— Friday through Sunday (April 21-23): “Cyberchase” launches its season at 8 p.m. Friday on PBS Kids, with the first of its four Earth Day episodes. It’s surrounded by Earth-oriented reruns of four other shows. The bundle runs twice (7-9:30 p.m. 3-5:30 a.m.) on each of the three nights.
— Already here: “Jane” is a fanciful series that arrived April 14 on Apple TV+, centering on Jane Garcia, a 10-year-old who mixes idealism and imagination, to emulate Jane Goodall. With her neighbor David (and lots of special effects), she travels the globe, encountering creatures.
— Also: Apple also has some animated shows: A “Sago Mini Friends” special debuted April 14; older ones include “It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown” and “It’s Earth Day, Charlie Brown.”
NEW THIS WEEK
— Wednesday (April 19): “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS, has an oft-spectacular look at Niagara Falls and at the nature along the way to the falls. “Changing Planet” returns from 9-11 p.m., visiting various places – from California to Kenya to Australia – where people are trying to ease climate change. Both shows will also be available at pbs.org, PBS Passport and the PBS App.
–Wednesday: “Chimp Empire” arrives on Netflix, visiting chimpanzees in Uganda.
— Thursday: David Muir will anchor “ABC World News Tonight” from an international water conference. That will be alongside a weeklong water emphasis on his show and two other ABC ones, “Good Morning America” and “Nightline.”
— Friday: “Big Beasts” debuts on Apple TV+, with separate half-hours offering impressive footage of grey whales and elephant seals. That continues, two per Friday, through May 19.
— Friday: “Extrapolations” has its final episode on Apple TV+, with the other seven already available. They range from 2037 to 2070, as people cope with environmental impact.
— Friday-Saturday: The National Geographic Channel’s “Secrets of the Elephants” is at 9 p.m. (savanna) and 10 p.m. (desert) Friday, rerunning at 11:57 p.m. and 12:53 a.m. On Saturday, it’s 9 p.m. (rain forest) and 10 p.m. (Asia), rerunning at 12:50 and 1:50 a.m. That’s preceded Saturday by reruns of other nature series, including “Animal Kingdom” (9-9:45 a.m. and 4-9 p.m.), “Hostile Planet” (9:45 a.m. to 2:48 p.m.) and an “Explorer” mission in Tepui (2:48 to 4 p.m.),
— Saturday: “Chasing the Rains” begins at 8 p.m. on BBC America, rerunning at 12:10 a.m.; in the first of three parts, we follow a cheetah mom, a wild dog and a matriarch elephant who must divert her herd when a river runs dry. That’s surrounded by reruns of previous BBC documentaries – “Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet,” etc. — from 6 a.m. Friday to noon Sunday.
— “Path of the Panther” airs at 10:50 p.m. Saturday on National Geographic. A movie-length documentary that was in film festivals last year, it eyes efforts to film and preserve the Florida panther.
— PBS (via pbs.org, PBS Passport and PBS App) has shows from past years, plus ones it aired earlier this month: “American Experience: The Sun Queen” profiles Maria Telkes, a pioneering solar advocate …. “Nature: The Hummingbird Effect” views the tiny birds in Costa Rica and the vibrant world they propel.
…. “Nova: Weathering the Future” views the struggle with extreme weather impact.
— Disney+ and its National Geographic hub combine for a rich assortment of films. That includes the DisneyNature ones that debuted in theaters, plus others. Newly added are “Born in Africa,” “Botswana,” “India’s Lost Worlds,” Secret Life of Predators,” “Super/Natural” and “Wild Japan Snow Monkeys,” plus this year’s “Secrets of the Elephants” and “Path of the Panther.”
— “Tiny World” is a 2020 series from the “Big Beasts” producers, going in the opposite direction, with miniature creatures. It’s at Apple TV+; so are “The Elephant Queen,” “Earth at Night in Color,” “Prehistoric Planet” and “The Year the Earth Changed” … a fascinating 2021 film that showed nature’s quick flourishing during the pandemic shutdown.
— “One Ocean” arrived this month on the digital channel Journy. Also arriving are “My Pacific Quest,” “Descending” and “Gordon Ramsay: Sharkbait.”
— “Nova: Chasing Carbon Zero,” 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, views the technology involved in efforts to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050.
— “Frog and Toad,” April 28, Apple TV+, has eight episodes, based on the classic books.