If, like me, you find nature documentaries interesting in principle and tedious in practice, give The Trials of Life a try. This six-part series is one of the liveliest, most lucid, and least didactic nature shows ever.
It's also one of the most poorly named. The Trials of Life? Sounds very urban-neurotic the title of a Law & Order episode, perhaps. But no: This is the latest call of the wild from Sir David Attenborough, the least stuffy knighted person in the world and the man who brought us the TV nature classics Life on Earth and The Living Planet. His new series is all about how various creatures build their homes and perpetuate their species. Real estate and sex what could be better television fare?
This first episode is divided into two sections, ''Arriving'' (how creatures from crocodiles to bats give birth) and ''Growing Up'' (many shots of fuzzy-wuzzy, cutey-wooty baby seals and elephants). I learned that opossums give birth to 50 bee-size babies at a time, but all of them die except for the dozen that claw their way over to Mom's 12 life-nurturing teats. Compared with opossum kids, Bart Simpson is a wimp.
Future installments will include segments on ''Homemaking,'' ''Living Together,'' and ''Hunting and Escaping.'' As always, we have a lot to learn about our furry friends, not the least of which is that prairie dogs install their own air-conditioning systems in the tunnels in which they live. I'm thinking of having a couple of them give me an estimate on my family room. B+