Discovery Channel's 'Life' is all about survival

The BBC miniseries Life, which debuts Sunday on Discovery, is a stunning look at survival.

Reason to watch: The BBC Natural History Unit, which brought us the magnificent Planet Earth in 2006, strikes again. Oprah Winfrey narrates.

What it's about: Four years in the making, 11 hours in the viewing, it has one consistent bedrock theme that ties all of Life together: survival.

How do species adapt to survive? What are some of their unique skills and strategies? Or, as Winfrey observes, "in life, there are no guarantees. ... Survival has always been a struggle, and one demanding extraordinary ingenuity."

Sunday's first hour (8 to 9 p.m.) is a grab bag of ingenuity. We see cheetahs taking down an ostrich; a Venus flytrap doing its thing; an insect that grows eyes on long projections because, as Winfrey tells us, "the female loves a bug with really long stalks."

My say: To observe that Discovery/BBC's Planet Earth was among the most beautiful and hypnotic creations in the history of television verges on understatement. It was landmark TV that took full advantage of advances in photographic technology and a newfangled one called "high definition."

Sadly — and perhaps unfairly — the equally gorgeous Life seems a little old hat by comparison. It's more intimate in scale — in recognition that most life on earth is intimate in scale — and faster-paced.

Life, like life, doesn't tarry. The octopus that dies after spending a year nursing 100,000 eggs under the watchful gaze of a BBC camera? Her close-up lasts just about four minutes, and then on to the next story of survival.

Meanwhile, Winfrey proves that she really is good at everything TV-related. Her voice is soothing and warm — plus, there's undeniable pleasure in hearing the Queen of All Media declare, "The pebble toad isn't the only hungry creature wandering the Tepui of Venezuela."

Bottom line: It's another stunning beauty — but you might have the sneaking suspicion that you've seen some of this before in other nature documentaries that revel in the life-and-death struggles of the veldt, or the deep sea, or the Tepui of Venezuela.