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For Your Consideration: 'Inside Nature's Giants'

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May 27, 2011 | 9:04am EDT

Inside Nature's GiantsWhen For Your Consideration first started, I had fully intended it to be a column that put a spotlight on non-big-screen media that movie fans should keep their eyes out for -- the connective tissue of the column being that there are plenty of inherently cinematic TV shows, books and video games out there to impress the movie-minded crowd.

Well, I’m going to take a different tact with today’s selection. It’s not cinematic in nature, but it is an oddball TV show that I had no idea existed until very recently -- and that makes it worth sharing. I present the wild, awe-inspiring animal-anatomy show Inside Nature’s Giants.

Who Made It: Inside Nature’s Giants is produced by Channel 4 in the UK, but it airs on Nat Geo Wild here in the United States.

Who’s In It: On the human side, the show is hosted by Mark Evans (Pet Rescue) and features the expertise of Dr. Joy Reidenberg and evolutionary biologist (and the Internet’s favorite atheist) Professor Richard Dawkins. On the animal side, the show has featured an Asian elephant, a fin whale, a crocodile, a great white shark, a Burmese Python, a lion, a tiger and a giant squid.

What’s It About: Inside Nature’s Giants is about exactly what the title promises: going inside the bodies of the biggest behemoths mother nature has to offer us. Unlike similar shows about animal anatomy, however, ING doesn’t just use a bunch of CGI renderings to show us how a giraffe’s heart pumps blood all the way up to its head or what kind of muscles a croc uses to chomp its mouth shut. Nope -- ING features full-on dissections of all these animals guided by the easy-to-understand expertise of some of the world’s best biologists.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a bunch of college professors killing animals just so they can cut them open for a TV show. Every single animal dissected on the show has died of natural causes and has been offered by their respective zoos or wildlife preserves to the team in the name of science. And it’s not always calm and cool work in an operating theater, either. The fin-whale episode, for example, finds the team having to jet from NY to Scotland to dissect a truly massive whale that has beached itself and died -- and they perform the operation right there on the beach for all the local villagers to watch.

Why You Should Watch It: Obviously, there is no way I would recommend anyone who isn’t interested in animals or evolutionary science to watch this show. It’ll just gross you out and you’ll yell at me. But if you do like those things, if you’re the kind of person who flips through TV channels and isn’t disgusted when you come across a show about heart surgery, then you are going to be blown away by Inside Nature’s Giants.

Inside Nature's GiantsSure, it doesn’t have the gorgeous, sweeping HD photography found in specials like Planet Earth, but ING is still one of the most fascinating nature shows I’ve ever seen. It may sound mundane, but it gives you sharp, eye-opening insights into just how extreme nature and evolution can be. Dr. Reidenberg and Professor Dawkins do such a tremendous job of explaining why they’re blown away by what’s in front of them and why you should be, too. Things like the way a giraffe bend its head below its knees without all of the blood rushing down its neck and blowing out its brains -- or the way a whale produces its iconic and soothing songs -- will captivate you in ways you probably never thought about before.

Even if none of the science interests you, there is still the sheer spectacle of the show’s subjects to blow your mind. We’re talking about animals so large they have to be dissected with heavy machinery usually reserved for laying the foundation of skyscrapers, and the operation has to be done in such a meticulous way as to avoid completely ruining the entire endeavor. Seriously, watching someone cut carefully placed holes into the blubber of a whale so that it doesn’t explode from all of the decomposed gases inside of it waiting to get out is fascinating. It’ll do your head in to see just how big an elephant’s small intestine is, or learn that a giraffe’s front legs aren’t legs at all but forearms it walks on.

It may sound gross, but really it’s all very cool stuff. And if you don’t have Nat Geo Wild, don’t worry -- YouTube has you covered.

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