David Attenborough's Frozen Planet II only just finished airing on BBC America in March, but there's already another Attenborough series on the way for April and Earth Day 2023. His latest special, Wild Isles, which aired on BBC One in February 2023 (though not without some controversy), is flying across the pond to American shores just in time for the international celebration of our planet.
However, in a surprising move, the five-part series will not be nesting in its usual home on BBC America, nor will it waddle over to PBS, which was the home to many Attenborough specials during the heyday of broadcast TV. Instead, the series is coming as a binge-drop to Amazon Prime Video.
As is obvious from the trailer, Wild Isles is something of a cinematic love letter to the 96-year-old Attenborough's home turf of the British Isles. (The first episode is literally titled "Our Precious Isles.") As many of his specials tend to do, each following episode breaks the landscape down by type; "Woodland," "Grassland," "Fresh Water," and "Ocean." Like all of Attenborough's releases since Planet Earth in 2003, the show comes with a sixth bonus behind-the-scenes special that covers the making of the series, as well as Attenborough's continuing thoughts on how climate change is affecting the world he's been covering and bearing witness to for half a century.
It's that special (and those musing) that ran the series into trouble with the BBC. The British broadcaster caused a minor uproar when it decided not to put the making-of special on the schedule and instead leave it as an online-only bonus. It was understood that this was due to Attenborough's monologue, which has turned into ever-more-strident rhetoric as the Earth's rising temperature reach the point of no return, and his choice to devote a portion of the hour to the "rewilding" campaign," which might upset right-wing viewers.
The BBC denied the charge of censoring Attenborough, claiming the making-of special was not technically part of the episode's run and, therefore, never planned to air, even going so far as to retitle it, "Saving Our Wild Isles." Though technically this claim is valid, it would have been more believable had not the BBC, BBC America/AMC+, and PBS always included the behind-the-scenes specials as part of the series, to the point that viewers had no idea these making-of installments were not technically part of the program.
It is notable that Amazon's press release only says it will air the five-episode run and does not mention the behind-the-scenes special or if it plans to air Saving Our Wild Isles.
Here is the series' official synopsis:
The series centers on the British Isles, which is one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes on Earth, and the series is full of behaviors never before seen on screen. It shows a “wild side to the British Isles,” exploring why the region is so globally important for nature before profiling one key habitat per ep: woodlands, grasslands, freshwater, and marine. The like of killer whales, sea eagles, and butterflies will all be on show as well as the miniature worlds of rock pools, ponds, and grasslands.
Attenborough, as always, produced, wrote, and narrated the new special and put in a cameo appearance at the beginning of some episodes. Like most of Attenborough's work, the series was filmed over a three-year stretch, using the most top-of-the-line camera technology, with the master recording in 4K resolution for those with the latest TV sets. Co-producer for this series also includes The Open University, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the World Wildlife Fund, and BBC Nature.
All five episodes of Wild Isles will arrive on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, April 21, just in time for Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, 2023.