In case you missed it, the new four-disc Blu-ray of the BBC's "Life" series hit stores on June 1. Home theater aficionados have been fans of BBC's earlier nature documentary, "Planet Earth," and the "Life" series quickly climbed the charts at Amazon. The only problem is that there are two versions of the Blu-ray edition out there--one narrated by British naturalist David Attenborough, the other by Oprah Winfrey--and a lot of people don't think that's cool.
The Attenborough version is the original as it first appeared on the BBC, while the Winfrey version aired on the Discovery Channel. For some reason--and we're not sure why--the resolution of the Winfrey Blu-ray is 1080i, while the Attenborough version is 1080p.
While the Winfrey version has a few extras that the Attenborough version doesn't have, video sticklers are naturally going to gravitate toward the 1080p version, and "Life" purists clearly prefer the original narration by Attenborough, which costs two bucks more.
In fact, Oprah's getting a rather rough ride in the Amazon user reviews section, where the vast majority of reviewers have doled out one-star ratings. (The 1080i vs. 1080p issue isn't mentioned much.)
"This version is a COMPLETE waste of time and an utter ripoff," writes REAL Alaskan. "What will Discovery think of next? Hiring 'Shoot Em From Choppers! Drill Baby Drill!' Sarah Palin to do a documentary about the natural wonders of Alaska? UNBELIEVABLY POOR MARKETING!"Another commenter notes: "Do not buy this version. That's it plain and simple. Go get the original David Attenborough-narrated version. Oprah makes this 'Americanized' version totally unwatchable."
Oprah does have a few defenders, including Weston Brown, who tried his hand at a more objective review:
"So unfortunately I bought the Oprah Winfrey version of Life on Blu-ray," he writes. "The filming was amazing, the colors are brilliant, the music is enthralling, and it seems everything is good. I was wondering why they didn't have the normal guy narrating the movie, he definitely does a good job, but I also didn't think Oprah did a bad job either. In fact I think she sounds okay..."
Chances are, if you're interested in this great series, you'll probably read these user opinions and make your own call. But right now the market appears to have spoken, and the Attenborough version is the clear winner. It's currently ranked No. 6 on Amazon's best sellers in "Movies and TV," while the Oprah version is No. 523.
At least when it comes to British-produced documentaries, we Americans seem to be more anti-American than you'd think--or just have better taste than what Europeans give us credit for.