They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For the second time in just over a month, Apple TV+ releases a documentary series borrowing heavily from ideas already present on Netflix’s growing catalogue of original series.
While the baby-centric Becoming You managed to just about step out the shadow of Netflix’s Babies, Earth At Night In Color has no such luck. Instead, it finds solace by bathing in the long shadow cast by Netflix’s Night On Earth. In doing so, this is about as close as you could get to a copycat of that series.
But let’s backtrack for a second to discuss what we’ve got here. Both documentaries are shot using ultra-sensitive cameras to capture animals living at night like never before. The camera crews get up close and personal with these wondrous creatures, managing to film some truly breathtaking moments.
Each of the episodes in Netflix’s Night On Earth jumped across the globe and studied different biomes, clocking in at around 50 minutes an episode – give or take. Apple TV’s project meanwhile has a shorter run-time and less geographical scope. Instead, Apple opt to hone in on one or two species each episode, combining elements of Netflix’s documentary with BBC’s tightly-focused narrative work seen in Seven Worlds, One Planet.
If there’s one element that Apple’s documentary excels in though, it’s the neat inclusion of “Behind The Scenes” segments at the end; a nod toward the Attenborough documentaries over the years. It’s a nice touch for sure but beyond that, there really isn’t a lot else here that we haven’t seen done better elsewhere.
Tom Hiddleston picks up the narration duties on this one, and his vocal tones do well for the most part to capture the mood of each scene. However, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a constant reinforcement that these moments are so unique that they’ve “never been captured until now.”
Of course, if “until now” refers to 2020 then that’s fine but it also feels a bit disingenuous to try and claim this is an original concept when Netflix and the BBC have done this first.
Much like any nature documentary series though, there are a lot of facts sprinkled throughout which is good and the animals themselves are, of course, the real star of the show. The big cats are given a significant amount of screen-time here too, so if that’s your forte then you’ll absolutely be in your element.
In another copycat move to Netflix’s Night On Earth, episode 5 exclusively hones in on cities and animals living therein. Of course, when mentioning cities, that refers exclusively to US cities. You won’t find any shots of monkeys roaming around India or Gibraltar here nor are there any Japanese cities playing host to wild deer.
Despite mentioning how “across the world” lightbulbs burst into life during these establishing shots, it’s really only two US cities that come under the spotlight. Ironically, this narrow-focused episode also features the most amount of wildlife diversity captured on film.
While it’s great to see more of these animals at night and nature documentaries are, admittedly, my favourite genre of TV, Apple’s effort pales by comparison to what we’ve seen before.
With an identical premise to Netflix’s Night On Earth, Earth At Night In Color may be a fascinating glimpse into the night lives of big cats (given they get the most amount of screen-time), but it’s also a limited documentary in many ways. Its inability to do anything that unique ultimately leaves this one firmly in the dark.
Earth At Night In Color Releases Worldwide On Apple TV+ 4th December 2020.