Jimmy Doherty embarks on a quest to reveal the hidden lives of farmyard animals.
Runtime: 60 minutes
The Private Life of... - The Private Life of Plants - Netflix
The Private Life of Plants is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first shown in the United Kingdom from 11 January 1995. A study of the growth, movement, reproduction and survival of plants, it was the second of Attenborough's specialised surveys following his major trilogy that began with Life on Earth. Each of the six 50-minute episodes discusses aspects of a plant's life-cycle, using examples from around the world. The series was produced in conjunction with Turner Broadcasting. The executive producer was Mike Salisbury and the music was composed by Richard Grassby-Lewis. In 1995, it won a George Foster Peabody Award in the category “Television”. Part of David Attenborough's 'Life' series of programmes, it was preceded by Life in the Freezer (1993), and followed by The Life of Birds (1998).
The Private Life of... - Background - Netflix
“There were, of course, gardening programmes on the BBC's schedules, but they did not deal with the basic facts of botany, or explain how plants feed, how they reproduce and distribute themselves, how they form alliances with particular animals. The reason was only too obvious. How could you construct the dramatic narratives needed for a successful television documentary series if your main characters are rooted to the ground and barely move? Thinking about this, it suddenly struck me that plants do move and very dramatically.”
The series utilises time-lapse sequences extensively in order to grant insights that would otherwise be almost impossible. Plants live on a different time scale, and even though their life is highly complex and often surprising, most of it is invisible to humans unless events that happen over months or even years are shown within seconds. Like many traditional wildlife documentaries, it makes use of almost no computer animation. The series also discusses fungi, although as it is pointed out, these do not belong to the kingdom of plants. The mechanisms of evolution are taught transparently by showing the advantages of various types of plant behaviour in action. The adaptations are often complex, as it becomes clear that the environment to which plants must adapt comprises not just soil, water and weather, but also other plants, fungi, insects and other animals, and even humans. The series shows that co-operative strategies are often much more effective than predatory ones, as these often lead to the prey developing methods of self-defence — from plants growing spikes to insects learning to recognise mimicry. Yet humans can work around all these rules of nature, so Attenborough concludes with a plea to preserve plants, in the interest of self-preservation. In the 2002 documentary Life on Air, Keith Scholey, the head of the BBC Natural History Unit, relates that he and his team had been wondering about an ecology series that included plants, and found that Attenborough had been thinking along the same lines:
In the same programme, Attenborough also confessed that he conceived the series partly to realise a long-cherished ambition: to visit Mount Roraima, which is featured in the last episode. Attenborough knew that the subject matter had not been covered in depth on television before, and in his autobiography, Life on Air, told of how he hit on the idea of time-lapse photography to illustrate it:
“So we went to his house and David, as always, listened to our idea and, you know, nodded and was very complimentary about it and said that 'Actually, I was thinking about something a little bit bolder.' And sure enough, by the end of lunch, we'd all signed up to do six hours on plants.”