Tiny World is the nature doc you should be binging [Apple TV+ review]

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Tiny World is back and as cute as ever
The astonishing docuseries about Earth's tiniest inhabitants is back and as cute as ever.
Photo: Apple TV+

Two of Apple TV’s big nature shows just returned back for their second seasons mere months after they debuted. Tiny World is the cuter of the two. Its micro look at a macro world remains charming, cute and sometimes despairing and gross, but never so much you couldn’t show it to kids.

Tiny World review: Season 2

This show is all about the animals people don’t see, whether that’s because they’re in far corners of the world largely uninhabited by man or because the creatures in question are small enough to dance on the head of a pin. This season we spend time with chameleons eking out a living in a sand dune, owls living in cacti, a family of ducks whose favorite pond lies across a dangerous road, and rock shrimp and clown fish just trying to survive in a busy coral reef, among others.

Tiny World is both delightful and sensitive, thanks in no small part to the dulcet tones of narrator Paul Rudd (Ant-Man). The show mines just enough suspense from ducks crossing a road to make each 30-minute episode feel full. It doesn’t skimp on grotesque insect business and the sad truths of life, but it doesn’t overindulge to prove how serious it is, either.

Tiny World hits the sweet spot of all-ages TV that’s interesting and exciting enough for parents and kids.

Each episode takes an ecosystem and makes one aware of all of the little processes that make it — and thus the wider world — work. The show wants to instill in every viewer the idea that every step we take has consequences on the planet beyond our own conveniences.

It’s funny to hear this from a show bearing the label of an enormous corporation that’s probably contributed its fair share to the waste and deforestation described on the show, but it is nevertheless appreciated. If kids have to be put in front of the TV every day, better that they be exposed to a show that tries to instill in them a little consciousness about the grass below them. It’s not a gift that comes without strings, but it could be much worse.

But first a bit of business

Tiny World is always convincing us to watch where we step
Tiny World is always convincing us to watch where we step.
Photo: Apple TV+

Tiny World was one of three docuseries Apple TV+ premiered last fall, and one of two made out of footage also sold to Netflix to make nature shows on the same subject. The footage in the first season of Tiny World previously showed up in BBC mini series Hidden Kingdoms. And the footage captured by uber-sensitive cameras that was edited into Apple TV+ stunner Earth at Night in Color was also used in Netflix’s Night on Earth.

This sheds light on the world of nature footage as a business. What it looks like is that nature photographers spend years in the wilderness filming things and then just sell the footage like fabric by the foot to whoever wants it.

There are enough superficial differences between any two nature shows that no one’s going to feel especially ripped off seeing the same cute animals because. Apparently, the idea is that you’re only paying for one streaming service and each one then comes with its own nature show. Of course, that’s not really how it works. Most people pay for five or six streaming services at once (or steal the passwords from family and friends and get them that way).

I guess there really is only so much ground left to be filmed out there in the wilderness, so this strategy does make sense. But it’s kind of funny to see, for instance, that a subplot of this season’s Tiny World episode about coral reefs winds up as an establishing scene in a different episode of Earth at Night in Color. Almost 200 million square miles of planet Earth, and documentary crews are bumping into each other trying to photograph the same fish.

Tiny World on Apple TV+

Season 2 of Tiny World lands on Apple TV+ on April 16.

Rated: TV-G

Watch on: Apple TV+ (subscription required)

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.