PBS // 2013 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // May 12th, 2013
Is it pronounced Ne-an-der-THal or Ne-an-der-Tal? You won't get a definitive answer here!
When most of us hear the word "Neanderthal" we think of a boorish, rather dimwitted exceptionally hairy caveman type. In Decoding Neanderthals that stereotype is challenged by new research. Our present prejudice stems from an incorrectly assembled skeleton and a general lack of knowledge. So when the Neanderthal genome was reconstructed, the results changed the way we should look at the group. They disappeared 30,000 years ago, but not for the reasons we believe, and their legacy continues to this day.
Nova is what I affectionately refer to as a "black hole show," meaning I have to turn the channel within three minutes or I'm helplessly sucked in to the program. And I would definitely be caught by the gravitational pull of the episode Decoding Neanderthals, as the show revolves around re-examining old beliefs through new technologies. I love learning and this was right up my alley. Almost exclusively interview segments, broken up here and there by re-enactments and the occasional CGI spot, the information presented focuses around a few key points. First we have a history of our commonly held beliefs. Then there are the attempts to recreate some of the Neanderthal technology, followed by highlights of what our own technology has enabled us to do in terms of shining a light on what we now believe are misconceptions.
Decoding Neanderthals moves quite briskly and never lags. I found it to be compelling and informative and enjoyed my viewing.
The standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video is on par with the shows currently broadcasting today and I appreciated the care taken to balance the levels. No matter if I was looking at CGI or an interview or reenactment, I always felt unification to the piece as a whole. The audio is quite crisp, especially considering it's simple Dolby 2.0 stereo. There are no bonus features.
While you don't need to purchase Decoding Neanderthals, it is easy recommended viewing, so stream it at your leisure.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated