When I'm sleepy but I can't sleep, there's only one medicine that does the job. And that medicine is...medicine. But when medicine isn't available, because I went through my Ambien prescription too fast like a shambling snooze-junkie so my doctor was all "WTF bro" and cut me off, I turn to the second-best thing: MY ANIMAL STORIES.
Ever since I got my Roku (or as I like to call her, "Ro," because best friends should be on a first-name basis), the most cherished part of my evening routine has been turning on a soothing nature documentary and then drifting off to the sounds of a cheetah gnawing on an alpaca's entrails, the freshly dead creature's terror still thick in the air. Ahhhh, I'm getting dozy just thinking about it.
Bonus: Not only is watching animal stories hella relaxing, you also get to play my favorite game, "Hey, Hey, That's You." It's pretty simple. Basically, when a dumb animal comes on the screen looking dumb, you just poke the person closest to you and go, "Hey, hey, that's you. That's what you do. You live in bat poop." Then you pretend like that's them. 100% LAFF RATE.
So, say it's bedtime, and say you're ready to get started. There are a lot of animal stories on Netflix, and not all animal stories are created equal. Personally, I'm a purist. I like it simple. Animals doing stuff, genteel narration (PREFERABLY BRITISH), sweeping vistas of faraway lands, hilarious birds with dumb faces (see that bird? That's you), and solemn admonitions about the terrible ecological consequences of humankind's hubris. I do not enjoy electric guitars, gimmicky CGI (prehistoric megafauna excepted), people who are not David Attenborough, and crocodiles (PLAYED OUT).
Also, all of my opinions are correct and yours are wrong. So please enjoy this definitive, legally binding ranking of all of the animal stories available on Netflix (that I've had time to watch so far—I am not a machine) from awesomest to shit-garbage:
1. Blue Planet
Look, I'm sorry. I hate to break it to all the Jim Fowler superfans out there, but nobody can fucking touch David Attenborough when it comes to animal stories. Maybe this list seems unbalanced, but if it were up to me there'd be even more A-man on it (Planet Earth isn't on Netflix right now, but it'd obv be #1, because DAINTY BABOON).
Anyhoo, Blue Planet is the best because the ocean is the best. Whales are the best, weird fish are the best, baby seals are the best, crabs being dicks are the best, uuuuugggghhh oh god, everything about Blue Planet is the best. Yeah, weird polyp thingies that live in crazy thermal vents or whatever are kind of a snooze, but also, hey, show me the boiling ammonia faucet YOU live in, wise guy.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this fish that just got its mind blown.
2. The Life of Mammals
WOOOOOOOO, MAMMALS ROOL!!! Mammals are fucking amazing, and also fucking gross. There's this one part in The Life of Mammals where these skunks find a giant pitch-black cave filled with millions and millions of bats, and the floor of the cave is just a blanket of guano and maggots, and the air is like 99% ammonia fumes and fungal spores, and the skunks just go in there and wait for baby bats to fall off the ceiling so they can eat them for dinner!!! AND they deliberately roll the baby bats around in the poop first so they have a nice tang before they bite their heads off and suck their brainz! Point is, SKUNKS ARE FREAKS.
Oh my gaaaaaaahd, also there's a part where David Attenborough scales a treacherous cliff so he can pat a baby sea lion and it is too much to be borne. Can someone get David Attenborough an assistant, BTW? Dude is 90 years old—does he really need to be sawing through sea ice and running from grizzlies solo?
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this raccoon dog.
3. The Life of Birds
Birds are okay.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this carnivorous parrot's butt.
4. David Attenborough's Wildlife Specials
At this point in my animal stories career, I'm on top of my crocodile/humpback whale/wolf/eagle/dolphin game. But that's precisely why David Attenborough's Wildlife Specials is so great to have around—it's got all the animal stories classics. All the hits. Penguins clumpin' for warmth. Bears yoinking salmon from the river. Dolphins freaking the fuck out. Wildebeests getting chomped by crocs at the watering hole. Zebras getting chomped by crocs at the watering hole. Wolves taking down bison LIKE A BOSS.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this frowny crab.
5. Killer Whales
Obviously this is not as good as Blackfish, but you can't really watch Blackfish before bed because it's like 40% humans getting bitten/drowned by giant angry whales. Also, it's hard to fall asleep when you're drool-sobbing like a Waterpik Elite. Fortunately, Killer Whales has all the whale facts and shark shade you're looking for, without quite so much heart-rending tragedy (don't worry—there's still some!).
The most important revelation: Orcas live in big happy families and have "the ability to communicate and cooperate," but sharks are lonely fuckers who nobody likes. So some smart-ass orca figures out that if you flip a great white over on its back, it goes to sleep and then you can eat it. AND SO THEY DO. Then all the other orcas are like, "LOL." Orcas are mean.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this dead shark with no friends.
6. Magic of the Snowy Owl
I mean...really? A whole hour on just on one particular species of owl? YES. LET'S DO THIS. Did you know that owls are "mystical creatures"? Did you know that baby owls are just constantly drunk on lemming blood? Did you know that OWLS OWLS OWLS OWLS OWLS
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this baby owl that's high as fuck.
Bison. The Brad Garrett of mammals.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this bison that doesn't even care if his friend poops right on his face.
8. Animal Odd Couples
Okay, nobody loves unlikely animal friendships more than I do (I mean, A MONKEY RIDES A DOG LIKE A TINY JOCKEY), but Animal Odd Couples doesn't really fit my criteria for bedtime animal stories. First of all, there's no omnipotent British narration. Second of all, too much of it takes place in sanctuaries and backyards, so it's kind of just Weird Shit Humans Did to Animals' Brainz: The Movie, which is interesting and all, but not really what I'm here for. I'm looking for NATURE'S MAJESTY ON THE TUNDRA, BRO. Third of all, there's a part where they show a bunch of monkeys running around and then they play "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees." No. NO. Fourth of all, I don't need a guy with an ear cuff telling me that "animals have an innate drive to have friends." I KNOW THEY DO. WHY DO YOU THINK I KEEP WRITING THEM ALL THESE LETTERS?
That said, a tortoise and a goose are best fwiends. So.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're the dog.
9. Animal Face Off
Let me stop you right now and let you know that this is not a movie where John Travolta trades faces with a rabbit and then goes undercover in rabbit society to fight rabbit crime. MORE LIKE ANIMAL RIP OFF.
Instead, it's a show that tries to answer "questions" about which animals would win in a fight, such as Lion vs. Tiger, Saltwater Crocodile vs. Great White Shark, and Nicolas Cage Vs. El-Ahrairah. The first episode I watched posed this question: Who would win in a fight—a 7000-pound hippo or a 700-pound bull shark?
YOU GUYS. A 7000-POUND HIPPO WOULD OBVIOUSLY WIN.
They try to make it suspenseful by having the shark advocate say sarcastic stuff like, "You're talking about bringing an overweight vegetarian into a fight against a predator that's been evolving for over 400 million years!" Yes. A 7000-pound fucking hippo. The hippo would obviously win. It weighs seven thousand pounds.
To solve the "mystery," they build a fake hippo and then throw it at a fake shark.
The hippo OBVIOUSLY WINS. The hippo chomps the shark's head. The hippo douches the shark immediately.
THIS IS YOU: This is you. You're this completely unnecessary robot hippo. You obviously win. I hate you.