If you’re like a lot of people, you never have watched a single program all the way through on the Discovery Channel.
Discovery is one of those cable networks that you probably stumble across on the way to watching something else. But because it offers a steady stream of enlightening programming that’s good for you, the natural tendency is to steer clear.
It’s the electronic equivalent of eating your broccoli.
So we should thank the good folks at Discovery for condensing everything the network has shown during its 10 years of existence into one superb two-hour highlight reel: “Great Moments of Discovery,” showing at 9 p.m. Sunday and repeating at 1 a.m. Monday on the station we all love to ignore.
Trust me. This fast-moving special is nothing like a spoonful of cod liver oil. It is a magnificent melange of clips (some of them too short) that showcase some of the fascinating, moving and informative stuff that most channel surfers have been missing.
Hosted for some unknown reason by Bob Costas, whom I don’t think has ever before even appeared on Discovery, “Great Moments of Discovery” really does serve up the promised greatness in segments culled from its many and varied documentaries on animals and medicine, warfare and disease.
There are stunningly photographed underwater snippets from Discovery’s most famed annual event - “Shark Week” - as well as breathtaking shots of whales.
We pay visits to the rain forest, to Africa for a glimpse inside the deadly war with poachers of elephant ivory, to Australia to look at toads and dogs, and to Ireland for a moving vignette on a pair of Siamese twins and the fallout from their ultimate surgical separation.
There are spectacular moments spent inside a space shuttle and a massive nuclear submarine, and wartime footage that includes glimpses of Josef Stalin and the only known color film shot of Adolf Hitler.
Most memorable is a clip from a show called “The Chimps of Gombe” that features a traumatized 9-year-old chimpanzee whose mother has died. It’s gut-wrenching to watch as this chimp climbs into a tree and remains there for three weeks, finally dying of grief.
There are little prize moments like that sprinkled throughout “Great Moments of Discovery.”
To nit-pick, the special gives short shrift to the best show Discovery ever produced: last year’s five-part “Watergate.” And it includes way too many hokey celebrity testimonials from the likes of Kelsey Grammer, “ER’s” Sherry Stringfield, John Tesh, Kathy Mattea, Mary Hart and Dave Winfield.
xxxx Program times “Great Moments Of Discovery” will air at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Discovery Channel. Repeats at 1 a.m. Monday.