Saturday, July 17, 2021

Still life with Robin: Shark Week? How About Penguin Week!

Great White Shark - Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

It’s the end of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week but now that Discovery Channel has turned into a streaming, subscription-access channel, I’ve missed it. That’s OK – I realize I don’t mind a bit. Having seen many, many Shark Weeks of old, I realize I’ve had my fill of it: Enough of those interviews with surfers who (barely) survived a shark attack. Enough with the shark vs. elephant seal duels. Enough with the crazy scuba divers who film sharks nose to nose from a shark cage. And enough with the even crazier ones who go nose to nose, NOT in a cage.

When it comes right down to it, there’s not much to love about sharks. They may be top of the food chain in the sea but they’re just not top of my viewing list for marine documentary subjects.

That leads to the question (in case you were wondering): Who is?

Well, I have an answer to that one: It’s penguins!

I may have missed all of Shark Week this year but I’ve just spent an very satisfying week (eight days actually) watching the eight half-hour episodes of a new (semi) documentary series about a more enjoyable form of marine wildlife. It’s called Penguin Town

I’m calling it a semi-documentary because it’s both a film of real penguins and it's a TV series with a regular cast of characters and a plot. Penguin Town follows three penguin couples, who have been given cute names – over the course of six months, and their lives turn out to be a very entertaining sitcom. And sometimes, a rom-com. Which on occasion, morphs into an action/thriller. 

This short trailer gives you a good sense of what it's all about: 

Penguin Town was filmed during the months when penguins come in to nest at a South African seaside city called Simons Town. The first episode begins as the penguins arrive at the start of mating season. We get introduced to several couples as they arrive and look for a good site to make their nest. In subsequent episodes we watch with not a little anxiety as they defend their nesting site, evade a variety of predators on both land and sea, spar with rival penguins on land, and try to do the best job of guarding their eggs and raising their chicks. It’s hard not to identify with their struggles and life choices!

Perhaps unexpectedly, Penguin Town also sheds light on some of the urban issues we discuss here on the Cleveland Park Listserv -- albeit from very different perspective. What makes a community a welcoming place for couples to settle down in? What obstacles need to be overcome? How can we minimize the dangers of car traffic (especially for those too short to show up in the rear-view mirrors)?  

Of course, in the case of this series, the pedestrians in question are not of our species - and frankly, they are also a lot cuter than most of us! They are also only part-time residents of the town, spending all of the non-mating/non-nesting season away at sea. But when they’re sharing the neighborhood with humans, their concerns are strikingly similar.

If you would like to find out how the penguin families fare, you can find viewing information here:   

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

1 comment:

  1. I have watched the penguin series on TV. I also have traveled a lot in Antarctica, and have seen penguins up close and personal. They are the best, even when they turn their back to you and squirt their poop out! The best time is when the baby chicks come and sit comfortably on their mother‘s or father’s feet, while the other parent is out hunting for krill to feed the chick. Despite the fact that they all look the same to us, each parent coming back with krill knows exactly which is her chick and her partner — amazing!