One of the most entertaining shows on television (in my humble opinion), "The Jeff Corwin Experience" has been one of cable network Animal Planet's great successes. Often compared to the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, Corwin's show is similar in the way that he ventures around the world to search for animals and educate the audience while still having fun.
The two hosts though, are often somewhat different. Corwin is less in-your-face, but his subtle humor, ridiculously funny "conversations" (which often make him seem just short of demented - see a conversation with a stray kitty in the first episode) with the animals he meets and occasional pop culture references (an amusing "Star Wars" reference in the middle of India) often result in many moments throughout each hour-long (well, about 50 minutes) experience that are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Although the show has gotten better and better as it's gone on, even these early episodes are still highly entertaining. Corwin also often has some fascinating facts to communicate with his audience both about the species that he is currently focusing on, as well as their environment. We also often get an interesting look at different cultures, such as Corwin's tour of a passenger train in India or visiting monks in Thailand who keep tigers as pets.
The series also benefits from terrific technical credits, with solid cinematography and score. While the series visits major cities and research facilities in most episodes, the production also manages to smoothly make its way into the deep wildnerness with surprising ease. It's difficult to pick a favorite episode, as they are all honestly quite excellent, managing to be both wildly entertaining and incredibly informative. Corwin carries the series wonderfully, with his unpredictability and terrific sense of humor.
Episode #1 — Borneo: A Wild Man in Borneo
The island of Borneo may be one of the wildest places on the planet. Deep in these jungles, Jeff Corwin encounters a herd of wild Asian elephants, orphan orangutans, reclusive proboscis monkeys and leeches before he captures two deadly snakes.
Episode #2 — India: Riding the Cobra Express
The relationship between India's people and her wildlife continues to baffle outsiders. Jeff Corwin dives into this puzzle, attending an annual festival dedicated to the worship of the deadly cobra and visiting Karni Mata, the Rat Temple.
Episode #3 — Arizona: Land of the Serpent
With its combination of dry, cracked earth, stifling hot temperatures and wide vistas, the Arizona desert may seem a barren wasteland. Jeff discovers that this area is crawling with creatures equipped to thrive in these harsh conditions.
Episode #4 — Alaska: Northern Exposure
Alaska, a largely unexplored and undeveloped terrain, serves as a giant playground for some of the world's most majestic wildlife. In this rugged frontier, Jeff is facing some of his most challenging searches yet with moose, salmon, musk ox and octopus.
Episode #5 — Louisiana: Call of the Cajun Wild
Jeff travels the backwoods and bayous of southern Louisiana. Here he encounters black bears, armadillos and rattlesnakes, as well as creatures of the swamp including a cottonmouth, a rare white alligator and the elusive alligator snapping turtle.
Episode #6 — Thailand: The Royalty of Siam
Thailand offers a unique opportunity to explore the symbiosis of humans and animals, in a setting of incredible natural beauty. Jeff Corwin examines the different classes of elephants that live, work and rule in this land.
Episode #7 — Indonesia: Six Days to the Dragon
Jeff travels to the most famous islands of the region — Bali, Komodo and Rincha. He is in search of the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard. These creatures are lethal predators, feeding on pigs, goats, deer, young buffaloes and even horses.
Episode #8 — South America: Into the Heart of Darkness
Jeff explores the fabled Zancudo Coch (Mosquito Lake) region of this South American republic. Largely unexplored rain forest, it is an area many naturalists believe to be one of the most biologically rich in the world.
Episode #9 — Brazil: The River Wolf and the Isle of Serpents
Deep within the immense landmass of Brazil, hundreds of miles away from its famous beaches and bustling cities, lies the Pantanal. This region is the largest system of wetlands in the world and its inhabitants are masters of this lush and perilous world.
Episode #10 — Africa: Into Africa
Almost unknown to the outside world until its independence in 1990, Namibia is a land of spectacular variety. The world's tallest sand dunes, the oldest desert, the fastest snake and land mammal are all found in this eco-system of miracles.
Episode #11 — Madagascar: The Land That Time Forgot
Madagascar is an island whose plants and animals have evolved in isolation for more than 150 million years. In these pristine rain forests, Jeff discovers a plump, blood-red tomato frog, a turquoise chameleon, and a jewel-eyed gecko edged with frills.
Episode #12 — Panama: Bridge between the Americas Everyone associates the narrow, unassuming country of Panama with its awesome canal. Jeff Corwin explores the isthmus in search of some of the most bizarre, deadly and muscular animals in the world.
Episode #13 — Galapagos: The Living Laboratory
Jeff follows the evolutionary footsteps of Charles Darwin in the archipelago known as Galapagos, where he encounters marine and land iguanas, giant tortoise, as well as a whole new species that has evolved since Darwin's time.
VIDEO: This episodes of "JCE" are presented in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame broadcast ratio. The quality here actually seems very slightly better than the image quality of the Animal Planet broadcasts that I've seen on digital cable. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, making for a crisp, clean picture that offers very pleasing fine detail. Edge enhancement and pixelation aren't seen, but a little bit of shimmering is present here and there. Colors are rich, well-saturated and vivid.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack is quite nice, with good ambience and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, nothing. A commentary with Corwin should have been included, and would have been fun. It also must be mentioned that the packaging is cheaply made; there's no plastic holders - the discs sit in cardboard sleeves within the fold-out casing.
Final Thoughts: Deeply entertaining and richly informative, "The Jeff Corwin Experience" is a terrific series that offers a lot of repeat viewing value. The DVD set could have been better (poor packaging, no extras), but the content is still more than worthy of a recommendation.