Live-action animal shows on Netflix
October 2, 2014 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend some live-action wild animal programming on Netflix!

My grandmother loves animal shows, and I want to load up a Netflix queue of them for her. I'm hoping once we watch a few of them, Netflix will understand what we want and stop trying to get us to watch cruise-ship travel shows. Her favorites are documentaries that follow an animal in the wild as it goes about its business for an hour or two. There's usually a voiceover, but I don't think she gets much out of those. She really just likes to watch lions walk around and eat things, basically.

These shows used to proliferate on Animal Planet, Discovery, and NatGeo, but now their animal-related programming seems to be mostly reality shows about people with exotic animal-related jobs (fish tank builder, pet transporter, etc). She doesn't really enjoy those.

Shows that are big flops:
-Travel documentaries ("Wild India" and its cousins) that focus a lot on landscapes, move quickly from animal to animal, or focus on people (like elephant-keepers or similar). BBC Earth was a flop; too much science and too many landscapes.
-shows that focus more on science (Cosmos was a big flop- I thought she would like the pictures, but nope) or have a lot of talking heads
-stuff like "On the Hunt for Rhino" or whatever that involves a lot of travel logistics ("Today, we're pitching our tent...") and the host saying stuff like "We're running out of time to find the rhino!!!"
-domestic animals (vet shows, "Too Cute" on Animal Planet)
-animals in zoos

She really just likes to watch wild animals run around. No people, no landscapes without animals, no animations of how the tiger's skeleton works, etc. Wolves of Yellowstone was a big hit (I think that's the right one. Basically just wolves running around in the snow and eating the occasional bison). Halp, Metafilter!
posted by Snarl Furillo to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
PBS Nature's "Raccoon Nation"
I don't have access to netflix to confirm if available streaming ATM, but if it is, Echo and other elephants.

It has people (and subtitles) but "Happy People" is as much about the dogs as it is the fur trappers.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2014

Can you get Big Cat Diaries on US Netflix? I think it ticks all of the boxes you're looking for, and there are lots of episodes...
posted by sabotagerabbit at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Blue Planet is great.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of the PBS show "Nature" is on Netflix. Some episodes can be a bit more sciencey and/or have more animal/human interaction than she might like, but if you look for the ones where the description is like "step into the secret life of ANIMAL" rather than the ones that are like "Famed photographer Jack Whatsisname explores the tundra in search of wolves," you can find the more animal-ish ones. Also you can mouse over the progress bar and get an idea of what the people-to-animals-to-illustrations ratio is.

Great Zebra Exodus, Snow Monkeys, and Fortress of the Bears look like they would be your grandmother's alley.
posted by mskyle at 9:56 AM on October 2, 2014

Big Cat Diaries is perfect. If it's not on Netflix, it's on Amazon. There are people narrating but they're mostly telling you literally what is happening. ("Look! The leopard pounced on the gazelle! Now she is taking it back to her cubs!") The people are rarely on screen. They follow cheetahs, lions, and leopards and you get to see them grow up over the course of multiple seasons (though it's not particularly important to watch them in order).

Bonus - my cat likes to watch with me.
posted by desjardins at 10:06 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Life of Mammals is EXACTLY what you're looking for, and I think it's on Netflix streaming.
posted by Specklet at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2014

Wild India was a bit of an anomaly with the people; the other wild shows (Wild Islands, Wild Indochina etc.) don't have as many people and are all very good.
posted by sid at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2014

Meerkat Manor is a little older, but it was like a soap opera about meerkat colonies.
posted by gladly at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2014

Blue Planet is a BBC-produced mini-series, covering a variety of sea animals. There are virtually zero humans shown, in any capacity. It streams on Netflix.

There's narration (David Attenborough), but it is economical and the "plots" follow a simple pattern; an episode might start off with a whale, move to the whale's dinner, move to the ecosystem that it traveled from and some of that zone's inhabitants, and end up tying that back to the initial whale species, somehow. The overall feel is a seamless description of a very complex "circle of life," without ever being tedious.

The visuals are, quite simply, some of the best nature photography like, ever. Just incredible.

(On preview, I see that LobsterMitten has already mentioned this, so I guess I'm just nthing.)
posted by credible hulk at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2014

"My life as a Turkey" might fit the bill. Sweet, slow paced. Baby turkeys walking around pecking at things and growing up in the wild.
posted by beccaj at 3:48 PM on October 2, 2014

Microcosmos (1996) is available instantly. Insects!!
posted by hush at 5:48 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe The Life of Birds with David Attenborough? Each episode does have some shots of David posing in and around bird places, but if I recall this is fairly minimal and it's mostly pretty neat footage of the birds themselves.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:58 PM on October 2, 2014

Wildest Islands is a series on Netflix. I know at least the first episode, on Zanzibar fits the bill. There are a few landscape shots in the intro with people, but the show doesn't focus on any humans (though it is narrated.) It spends a good chunk of time focusing on different animals going about their business - a lot on crabs, then manta rays and whale sharks as I recall. Not sure if other episodes follow this format. If they do that would give your grandma a lot of hours of wild animal watching.

(I thought maybe The Private Life of Deer, but upon checking it out, it's mostly people watching/interacting with them.)
posted by catatethebird at 12:31 PM on October 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone. I just added a bunch of these to her queue, and there's so much variety that she'll be able to go quite a while before she rewatches anything. Plus, you guys came up with enough suggestions that Netflix started listing categories like "Nature Documentaries" and "Eco Documentaries" in her profile. Along with her queue, that will make it a lot easier for her home health aides to pick something for her using the Roku. Thank you!!!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:25 PM on October 6, 2014

We are watching "Touching The Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch" this very moment on Netflix and it's wonnnnnnderful. Gorgeous footage of deer in the wilds of Wyoming.
posted by mochapickle at 3:17 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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