Studio: TBS New Media Ltd.
Duration: About 6 hours
Host: Shannon Leroux
These days green is big, big business. So big, in fact, that it can be hard to keep your facts straight. Is a biodegradable window cleaner from California a greener choice than a homemade spray based on vinegar? Depends on how far away that vinegar was made, of course. If you’re the type who wants to live a more Earth-friendly life, but can’t tell a CFL from a solar panel, this 6-disc set could be your toolkit for a greener life. The discs cover cleaning, gardening, eating green, energy conservation and being a green-savvy consumer. Throughout, the shows give facts like:
a) coffee is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world;
b) over its lifecycle, a fabric shopping bag can replace thousands of plastic grocery bags
c) babies’ livers can’t handle the pesticides that saturate non-organic fruits and veggies.
It’s good information, and if you take even a fraction of it to heart, you’ll be well on your way towards becoming an eco-conscious consumer.
The Living Series is certainly informative, but be aware that cinephiles will be quickly put off by its low-rent production values and piss-poor directing. The show is full of little things that should never have seen screen time when in most cases, one more take would likely have cleared them up. Things like too much gesturing while talking; a host who is talking to the wrong camera or reading prompts from somewhere over the cameraman’s shoulder; or even just the fact that host Shannon Leroux calls the plants that fire so much of Ontario’s power “nookeelar.” It’s just a question of being a conscientious filmmaker.
Where films like The 11th Hour and Planet in Peril feature mediagenic faces and Hollywood-level pretties, it’s nice to see bona fide, Normal Joe experts onscreen. That being said, the lack of screen sense that most Normal Joes have can sometimes make for a little unintended comedy. A particularly shining moment comes during the cooking section, when organic food expert Julie Daniluk tops off a segment full of grammatical errors by telling the viewer to always have a lot of nice organic root vegetables on hand, then lays out some sweet potatoes, onions… and a squash.
Crave Factor: 5
The series is shot on video. And we’re not talking about hot, High-def Phantom Menace-level video, either. As with most aspects of the series, the video quality shows more attention to fiscal responsibility than to excellence. Unfortunately, the lighting and general cinematography aren’t much better than the cameras they used. Shots are often poorly set-up and light levels are sometimes almost embarrassingly bad. The end result is a show that looks homemade.
Crave Factor: 1
If there is anything that saves The Living Series, it’s that the sound isn’t nearly as bad as the visuals. Even here, there are moments when the audio could have been sweetened up a little, but on the whole, the sound is clean.
Where the audio could have used a little budget is the music. The theme song is an innocuous acoustic number with a great bass line, but its overuse as incidental music throughout the show makes for a pretty grating viewing experience. Generally, a six-part series needs more than one or two songs to avoid coming across as low-budget pap. The producers should think about this for next time.
Crave Factor: 3
There are no real extras to speak of. Each episode includes some tip lists and summaries, but that’s about it. But honestly, there’s no need for a bunch of making-ofs and other extras for something like this.
Crave Factor: N/A
Menu & Packaging
The menu is just a standard, run-of-the-mill old-skool static DVD menu.
The packaging is completely composed of the greenest materials around, from FSC-certified paper to soy-based inks. Even the plastic wrap is made from a special material that is utterly miserly in its plastic content. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the resulting package is flimsy-feeling, and looks as cheap as it feels. This isn’t an issue with going green, either. There are plenty of extremely eco-friendly packages out there that don’t look and feel like they’d come apart under a brisk breeze. Oh: The packaging is also a lot taller than the standard DVD box. So forget about sticking it into a DVD rack that doesn’t have a good couple inches of headroom. Fun.
Crave Factor: 3
Conclusions & Final Thoughts
The Living Series comes may come from good intentions, but the piss-poor workmanship that touches every part reduces its authority, it’s viewability and ultimately its worth. If you’re the type who strongly believes in function over form, then you can still come away from The Living Series with a head full of ideas on how to walk softer upon the Earth. If you’re even remotely visually-oriented, then this series will be nothing but a frustrating experience.
Without an intimate knowledge of what kind of resources went into this series, it’s hard to say whether it comes from a production company that’s trying to jump onto the green bandwagon with the lowest possible dollar investment, or it’s the work of bottom-rung filmmakers. Either way, it’s not a good enough buy to recommend.