NPR diversions: Time for penguins

Mar 8, 2012

Live stream videos at Ustream

By Linda Holmes / NPR

Discovery's series Frozen Planet, the latest BBC co-production in the same series as Planet Earth and Life, premieres on March 18. But they've already found the best promotional tool imaginable.

Penguins.

The Penguin Cam, set up at the "Penguin Encounter" area at SeaWorld in San Diego, has become one of those things you hear about ... and then hear about ... and then hear about again. They waddle! They cry out! They ... well, they waddle a lot. Sometimes they run. Sometimes they're fed. Sometimes they come right up to the camera and say, "HIYA!" Or it seems that way.

What is the charm of the Penguin Cam? Is it just that they're cute? Naaaah. There is something that is so ungainly about penguins that they seem poorly designed in the best way, just as I often feel poorly designed when I am trying to retrieve something from the top shelf in my kitchen. And every now and then, they interact with the camera in the most surprising ways, like seeming to do the limbo under it. (Hey, I saw it happen. Possibly.) And when a penguin unexpectedly runs across the screen as fast as he possibly can, you're basically the monkey who sat in the research cage pressing the red lever a thousand times and finally you got a pellet of delicious monkey chow.

I haven't gotten to my Frozen Planet screeners, but I was mesmerized by one of the early clips they released, in which Alec Baldwin narrates a truly terrifying piece of footage of the Icy Finger Of Death as it comes for a bunch of starfish. You think I'm kidding, but I emphatically am not.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.