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At Discovery, Life Is Beautiful

4/27/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Discovery Channel may be looking to diversify into more entertaining fare, but Life of Mammals remains in keeping with the beautifully photographed, informative wildlife shows that have long served as its signature.

Yet, there can be too much of a good thing.

Despite its spectacular footage and tons of information, this multiparter on warm-blooded animals is not as fast-paced or dramatic as "Shark Week" fare or Walking With Dinosaurs.

Like Blue Planet: Seas of Life, this project, at six hours, is too long and in need of some cutting, although the editing of segments within each hour is top-notch.

This British Broadcasting Corp./Discovery co-production — billed in the title as simply "By David Attenborough" — features the naturalist and documentarian as on- and off-camera presenter and narrator. He is enthusiastically involved, whether atop an elephant, hoisted into a tree or swimming with manatees.

His previously well-received epics, from Life on Earth
to Blue Planet, also have tended to run long. Still, even Blue Planet was divided into two four-hour miniseries, which aired in the first and second quarters of 2002.

Life, while presented as an event, is not as compelling a package as, say, Blue Planet. Luckily, each hour is self-contained.

The second hour — on meat-eaters, from Siberian tigers to cheetahs to arctic foxes — would have been a better opener than the slower-moving "A Winning Design."

"Return to the Water," featuring dolphins, blue whales and manatees, is the other above-average episode.

Other installments concentrate on omnivores (raccoons, foxes, rats and even bears), on mammals living in trees and, finally, on monkeys.

But any quibbles are relatively minor. All involved, from Attenborough down the line, should take a bow. This epic's often breath-taking footage was shot in Africa, Australia, South America and elsewhere by a list of photographers too numerous to mention, but kudos go to them as well as overall series producer Mike Salisbury.

Life of Mammals will air on Discovery at 8 p.m. May 8 and 9.

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