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3 new PBS documentaries lead TV shows on DVD this week

Posted December 26, 2016

In the heart of Uganda, 20 rare giraffes are transported down the Nile River for protection in the "Nature" episode," Giraffes: Africa's Gentle Giants," now on DVD. (Deseret Photo)

PBS documentaries about giraffes, early civilizations and early man lead television programs on DVD this week.

“Nature: Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants” (PBS, 2016). With giraffes in the news lately regarding their diminishing numbers due to poaching, the majestic creatures with the towering necks are a timely subject for exploration in this hourlong “Nature” episode. Julian Fennessy warns that the giraffe population has dropped some 40 percent in the two decades he’s been studying them, and he embarks on a difficult voyage to move to safety 20 of the most rare giraffes, via the Nile River in the heart of Uganda.

“Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge” (PBS, 2016). Over the past five years, archaeologists in an eastern-England quarry have been uncovering evidence of a 3,000-year-old settlement that was surprisingly advanced. This hourlong documentary episode of “Secrets of the Dead” looks at a settlement that apparently rose above marshy fens with houses on stilts, busy harbors and rivers, metalwork traders selling goods across Europe, etc.

“NOVA: Great Human Odyssey” (PBS, 2016). This hourlong “NOVA” episode gathers evidence that our ancient ancestors lived in Africa in tiny bands before moving out and spreading across every corner of the planet — crossing the Sahara on foot, surviving frigid ice ages, sailing to remote Pacific islands, etc.

“Jericho of Scotland Yard” (Acorn, 2005, two discs, four episodes). Entertaining, if unnecessarily complicated, this is a British 1950s-era four-part tale of a Jewish detective inspector (Robert Lindsay) whose life has been shaped by events concerning his late father, an English policeman. His father returned from World War I a changed, rather violent man, and then was gunned down in their home, right in front of his teenage son. (This show was intended as a series but was canceled after one brief season.)

“Ray Donovan: Season Four” (Showtime/CBS, 2016, four discs, 12 episodes, featurettes). The Boston-born title character (played by Liev Schreiber) is a tough-guy “fixer” for a high-rolling Los Angeles law firm, and this season he gets mixed up with the Russian mob, even as he tries to mend fences with his family. (As always, Showtime excesses abound on an R-rated level.)

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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