Extreme Bodies had a short lived run on the Discovery Channel and while its name may give you images of muscle bound body builders or something to that effect, it really focuses on people who live with rather unusual and unorthodox physical conditions. Rather than go the 'freak show' route and exploit the people that the series investigates, the show instead introduces us to the personalities that are there behind what may, on the surface, seem very unusual.
This DVD is broken up into a quartet of different segments, the first of which is Conjoined Twins. Here we meet Lori and George Schappell, two twin sisters who were joined at the head when they were born. The siblings each have their own brain and as such, have different personalities and characteristics - they are simply joined by the skull that they share. This episode shows us how these two have lived their collective lives together and have never known any other way. They've adapted quite remarkably despite their condition and while, like all siblings, they disagree on plenty, they obviously enjoy one another's company just fine.
The second episode, Super Obese, takes us through the life of one Manny Yarbrough, who weighs in at over seven hundred pounds. Manny, a former Sumo Wrestler, holds the Guinness Book Of World Records title for heaviest man on Earth. When Manny was competing as a wrestler he'd burn off a lot of the excess calories he'd put into his body but since retiring, his intake has not subsided but his exercise regiment has, resulting in some rather massive weight gains (we're told that at one point he was over eight hundred pounds). As such, Manny has developed some health conditions which are explained to us by way of some computerized graphic representations.
The third episode on the disc is Giants and it follows around a man named George Bell who is almost eight feet tall and suffers from a condition known as gigantism. George works as a sheriff in Virginia and he too has health problems that aren't all that different from those that Manny was dealing with in the last episode. George's large size taxes his body rather intensely and people with gigantism often times have problems with their knees and their spines. More computer graphics explain how all of this works.
Episode four, Dwarfs, the final one on this disc, follows a man named Scott Danberg who, at four feet eight inches tall, suffers from dwarfism, or, hypochondroplasia. To be brief, this is a condition in which a person's bones don't develop at a normal rate causing them to never reach an average adult height -though Scott's head and torso are normal size. We see how Scott has adapted to this life, how he and his wife interact, and how they go about their daily routine much like everyone else. We also meet Hannah Kritzeck who stands only three feet tall. Her condition is considerably more unique and rare. A primordial dwarf, Hannah's body is in proportion, it's just very small. Hannah has had spine problems in the past but the miracles of modern medicine have helped her with that and she even secured herself a spot on her school's cheerleading team.
Ultimately the four episodes here are pretty interesting, though the narration and delivery of the series is a bit on the bland side. Regardless, the personalities that are explored through the show are engrossing enough that this is a show worth watching. Is it something you're going to go back to time and again? Not likely, but unless you're some sort of human biology expert already you'll definitely learn something from it and that alone makes it worth checking out. On top of that, the series approach of putting the personalities before the conditions makes it as much a human interest show as it is a scientific one.
Extreme Bodies arrives on DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image looks about as good on DVD as it would have on TV. The picture is sharp and clear and while it's not going to floor you, this fairly standard looking picture is certainly watchable enough.
The sole audio track on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that comes with optional subtitles in English only. It's a pretty basic mix, mostly narration and interview bits with some music thrown in now and again for dramatic effect, but the levels are fine, and everything is perfectly audible. It's not a fancy track by any stretch but it gets the job done.
This disc is as barebones as they come, providing only basic menus and chapter stops. That's it.
Discovery Channel's presentation won't blow you away but it's certainly watchable enough even if the completely barebones nature of this release is a disappointment. The series itself doesn't have a whole lot of replay value, making it a tricky one to wholeheartedly recommend, but it is worth seeing for anyone with an interest in the content that it explores. Extreme Bodies isn't an essential purchase but it's worth a look, making for a solid rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.