Don't mention body image to Judge Daniel Carlton. He's a little self-conscious.
With a cast full of dwarfs, giants, and conjoined twins; you would think you are watching one of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Extreme Bodies takes a lengthy look at some of the abnormalities of the human race. This collection puts names and faces to the physical conditions we have heard of but maybe have never seen in public. As odd as some of these conditions are, the people we meet in this series lead surprisingly normal lives. While normalcy is great for those involved, it does make for television that is slightly more informational than necessarily enjoyable.
Facts of the Case
Extreme Bodies is another in a long list of Discovery Channel releases in which shows once airing on the network make their way to DVD. Included on this disc are four episodes: "Conjoined Twins," "Super Obese," "Giants," and "Dwarfs." Each episode studies the abnormalities of each condition and the various strains that these conditions can have on the human body.
"Conjoined Twins" begins with Lori and George Schappell, a pair of sisters who have been joined at the head since birth. To the average person, having a conjoined twin would seem extremely limiting, but to the Schappells, this is the only way of life they know and they have learned to manage without a hitch. In the program, we witness the Schappells get an MRI and we learn that although Lori and George share the same skull, they have two separate minds with individual circuitry controlling each part of the shared brain. The fascinating part is how uniquely different each of these two people really are. Lori keeps a cluttered house, while George prefers to have her area organized. George doesn't want any children, but Lori would like to get married and have a family. This is unlike another pair of twins we see later in the program who not only share a brain, but seem to be sharing a mind. This has yet to be tested since that pair of females is too young for any sort of scientific analysis.
The next episode in Extreme Bodies is "Super Obese." Here we learn that constant eating and inactivity inevitably send the body's metabolism into chaos, often leading to extreme obesity. We meet Manny Yarbrough, the once famous sumo champion deemed the World's Largest Athlete by the Guinness Book of World Records. At the time of the show's taping, Manny weighed 711 pounds, but has weighed as much as a whopping 800 pounds. Since leaving the world of sumo wrestling, Manny has struggled with extreme obesity since he no longer burns the amount of calories he once did. "Super Obese" explores some of the health problems with obesity and as with most Discovery Channel releases, it incorporates helpful computer graphics to explain how obesity can lead to the loss of cartilage in the knees or sleep apnea, a condition that causes snoring through oxygen deprivation.
The next two episodes are similar in that they both deal with height and explore extreme examples in both directions. "Giants" begins with George Bell, a sheriff in Virginia who stands seven foot, eight inches high. George suffers from gigantism, a condition in which the body creates structures that push the human form to its limits. This same growth can tear bodies apart and cause serious long-term health problems. Similar to people with obesity issues, people who suffer from gigantism often have issues with their knees. Computer visuals explain how the human knee was not designed to withstand so much weight being exerted on the joints and how this can lead to severe pain with devastating or even crippling effects.
The final episode, "Dwarfs," delves into the various types of dwarfism. At four feet eight inches, Scott Danberg suffers from hypochondroplasia, a condition involving underdeveloped bone growth causing short stature. Similar to the Schappells, Scott and his wife have learned to live with this condition extremely well. Both lead normal lives without too many health problems. The program then introduces us to thirteen year old Hannah Kritzeck, a primordial dwarf. Hannah stands only three feet three inches tall, but unlike Scott, whose torso and head are that of a normal sized human, Hannah's body is scaled to one fourth of a normal human. Hannah's condition is extremely rare, inflicting only one in three million people. Primordial dwarfism can lead to scoliosis because of the extremely small and fragile frame. Hannah was forced to have a spine straightening procedure to correct her alignment, but thankfully was able to return to cheerleading at her school after a successful surgery and much physical therapy.
We are treated to no special features on this disc, but the image is nice and sharp, as is expected from a television release.
Extreme Bodies was educational, but that was the extent of it. It did personalize some of the conditions that we read about in the Guinness Book of World Records, but it wasn't necessarily entertaining with its dry delivery. I would find it hard to believe that people would sit at home and watch these episodes repeatedly as nothing in the show seemed overly engaging. Since this is an educational show, these episodes would be great to show to students in a science or biology class and could serve as an alternative to the daily bookwork. I'm confident that viewing Extreme Bodies would start some active conversations in the classroom.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
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