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50 Years of The Nature of Things

A celebration of half a century of a landmark science and natural history series, and an unrivaled Canadian institution.
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"The Nature of Things is a remarkable program. It operates on the assumption that a TV audience is intelligent, inquisitive...and alert." -- Montreal Star 1960

The Nature of Things. Evocative words that conjure images, emotions and ideas: beakers and lab coats, whales and bears, Arctic ice, tar sands and exotic locales. Canadians think David Suzuki, and they think passionate, timeless, making a difference. Put those things together and you get entertaining, dramatic and enlightening television.

First TNOT show
The Beginnings

When The Nature of Things began in 1960, the program had two great hosts in Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey. Alongside their wacky senses of humour, television technology was in its infancy and sometimes the kinks were worked out on camera. This made for some very funny moments. In the black and white footage from our earliest programs we see a wide range of comedic moments: crashes, explosions, and rudimentary graphics. Hume and Ivey's off-kilter perspective gave serious subjects some levity. The new medium of television helped their approach, allowing them to create absurd visual illusions like "paddling" in a canoe while actually being motionless in the studio.

Today, most Canadians are aware of the environmental issues that face us. But that wasn't always the case. In the early days, The Nature of Things wasa lone voice speaking for the environment, and continues to frame the discussion for Canadians. Danger: Man at Work was a cutting-edge series that addressed humanity's impact on the world around us. With quick cuts and dramatic music, the series could easily be played for today's audiences.

Pioneering in Colour and HDTV

At a time when most television production was still being done in black and white, TNOT took a colour camera to the Galapagos. It was the first program that the CBC had ever produced in colour. From that point on, The Nature of Things traveled to remote places to bring Canadians a glimpse of the world at a time when global tourism and flying to exotic locations was only just beginning to be affordable. In 2004 The Nature of Things is the first CBC documentary program to be broadcast in HD. These were the first HD surface and underwater cameras used in the Canadian Arctic.

 David Suzuki
David Suzuki has been hosting the Nature of Things for 31 years.

Scaling perpendicular cliff faces, plunging into the deep ocean, peering inside volcanoes, roaming the plains of Africa and the high Arctic tundra, the Antarctic wilderness, and clearing a path in the jungles of Borneo: The Nature of Things has taken viewers on some great adventures, allowing viewers to experience the excitement and anticipation of a journey into an unknown world.

Exploring New Worlds

The Nature of Things was one of the first mainstream programs to present scientific findings on climate change, AIDS, nuclear power and countless other subjects. Over the past 52 years, the pace of change in the medical world has been enormous. The Nature of Things has taken viewers behind the doors of the surgery theatre, into the lab, and even into the human body to reveal the potential and reality of medical research. We even turned our cameras on David Suzuki and his family to reveal the hidden 'wildlife' that lives on us and in our homes.

 David Suzuki
The series, One Ocean, was shot in locations around the globe and underneath it's surface.

The Nature of Things  has traveled all of Canada and the world to bring audiences stunning visuals and the remarkable behaviour of countless species of animals and plants. We've revealed to Canadians everything from the raccoons in their backyards to the magnificent blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived on this planet. From the timeless dances of predator and prey, to the remarkable work of scientists and conservationists, The Nature of Things is synonymous with wildlife.

Available Around the World

Over the years, episodes from the series has been broadcast in more than 80 countries.  It has won hundreds of awards, including six Gemini Awards as the country's Best Documentary Series, and has garnered an International Emmy nomination in both the Best Documentary and Non-Fiction categories.

The last 52 years of The Nature of Things has brought science – in all its diversity – to Canadian audiences. The series has fed the imaginations of not only aspiring scientists, doctors, engineers and environmentalists, but has also informed and enlightened all Canadians. What's next? We know that the future can be anything we imagine…it's unwritten. We know The Nature of Things will have a role in writing it.

Sue Dando is the Area Executive Producer. Caroline Underwood and F.M. Morrison are the Senior Producers.

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