A few BBC wildlife programmes are average but the majority are good, very good or exceptionally good. In my opinion "Madagascar" is in the highest category. The diaries at the end of each programme show the effort put into making them over an 18 month period - the canoes and the unstable platform to film the reed lemurs in the first, the platform high in the trees and the long wait for the rain to stop to film the red ruffed lemurs in the second, and the hair-raising nocturnal filming of fossas in the third.
The programmes cover both the beautiful and the bizarre, including shell squatting spiders, pygmy chameleons little bigger than ants, Labord's chameleon that lives for only 12 weeks, giraffe-necked weevils, and lemurs that eat bamboo containing levels of cyanide that would be lethal for other animals. A big plus is that in addition to the fauna and flora we have stunning aerial photography of the varied and spectacular landscapes of the island - mountains, rainforests, rivers, coasts and arid areas.
David Attenborough (as good as ever) provides the narrative, explaining how plants and animals adapted to the environment during the 60 million years when the island was cut off from the rest of the world. As for the music, all too often BBC programmes are spoiled for me by excessively loud and inappropriate music. In this case the music, much of it composed specially for the series, actually adds value to it. If I was allowed to keep only one wildlife series I think "Madagascar" might be it even though it does not feature my favourite animals - the big cats.
However, along with the beauty there is a sombre tone. We see the scattered remains of the elephant bird that began to disappear, along with other species, when man arrived. David Attenborough tells us that the unique radiated tortoises are likely to be extinct within twenty years, that only ten female fossas survive in the forest, and only 200 ghost-like silky safakas remain. He finishes all three programmes with a warning about impending extinctions. How sad it would be if our great-grandchildren were one day to watch this wonderful series to see not living animals but a record of those that have vanished from the earth.
Edit: as an extra "Attenborough and the Giant Egg" is included as part of the two disc set, with video dating from 1960 (when Attenborough acquired the egg of an elephant bird) to the present day.