Our Great National Parks review – Barack Obama goes wild on Netflix

If you were asked who would be the next person to front a natural history documentary on Netflix, I bet you the answer would probably not be the 44th President of the United States. However, that is exactly who the streaming giant have fronting Our Great National Parks, the latest big budget and glossy nature show from the service.

Produced by Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, and with executive producers who have been involved in David Attenborough documentaries in the past, this is as you might expect a very good looking and slick show. Although at first you might think the programme is going to focus on the National Parks of America (and yes it does include them) it is in fact a journey across the entire globe to explore hidden wonders, creatures, habitats and people that live and work within them.

As with any natural history show, a hook is needed. The BBC and Attenborough have been masters of this in the past, giving us Frozen Planet, Blue Planet, Green Planet and everything in between – but that of National Parks seems to work quite well to give a reason for the existence of this show.

The first episode sees us move quickly around the world, from America to Australia to Japan and beyond as we get a whistle stop tour of what the planet has to offer before more focussed explorations of different environments in the following four episodes. Episode two is about Patagonia in Chile, the third instalment focusses on Kenya, the fourth California and the final part goes to Indonesia.

Is Barack Obama a good presenter?

Despite the wondrous surroundings and beautiful photography, there is clearly something that everyone will focus on in this series – the presenter. Yes, it is the man that used to be the leader of the free world fronting the show, and that is in many ways a talking point that we can’t avoid. But what Barack Obama manages to achieve very early in the series is the elimination of any doubt that he’s just there to bring in interested eyeballs. He is not on screen and narrating as a novelty, he is there because he is actually very good at it and adds value to the show.

It’s probably no surprise that someone who served as President for eight years and delivered countless addresses to the nation and the world is a good orator, but what Obama brings to this show is more than a clear and calm delivery. He offers personality and at times humour, and he manages to bring a personal connection to different parts of the story, which adds credibility and reason to his presenting the show, as he is not someone who has dedicated his life to studying the natural world.

As with any series about the planet in the modern age, this series addresses climate change and asks questions about how we live and what we could and should think about for the future.

Overall, this is an exceptional piece of nature documentary-making from a great team. Netflix have proven they have ambition in this area with Our Planet, and it feels this won’t be the last we see of Barack Obama exploring the world in this style of television.

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How can I watch Our Great National Parks?

Our Great National Parks presented and narrated by Barack Obama is available to watch now on Netflix wherever you live.

Tim Glanfield

Tim Glanfield is a journalist, editor and broadcaster with more than 15 years experience writing about television, film and the entertainment business. He has been editor of RadioTimes.com, a writer for The Times (of London) and the Guardian as well as a freelance contributor to newspapers, magazines and websites across the world. He is author of the book Digital Economy or Bust: The Story of a New Media Startup and makes regular appearances on TV and radio in the UK.

Tim Glanfield has 41 posts and counting. See all posts by Tim Glanfield