"THE LIVING PLANET: A PORTRAIT OF THE EARTH," Sunday, 7 p.m. (28) (15)--Remember "Life on Earth," the fascinating nature series that aired on the Public Broadcasting Service in 1982? A lot of people will. It chalked up the highest ratings ever for a weekly series on the non-commercial TV network.

Now host and writer David Attenborough is back with another 12-part documentary series about the amazing variety of life forms to be found around the world, "The Living Planet: A Portrait of the Earth." It debuts Sunday night at 7 on Channels 28 and 15, just before "Nature."

"The Living Planet" has a different focus than its predecessor. "Life on Earth" was a history of nature, a chronological accounting of how life evolved. "The Living Planet" explores how those various plants, animals and humans adapt and interact with one another in specific environments--deserts, forests, oceans, islands, cities . . . a different one each week.

One thing that hasn't changed in the new series is Attenborough's penchant for globe hopping. He and his BBC camera crews traveled 150,000 miles and visited 63 countries while filming the series over the past 3 1/2 years. Among the places that the 58-year-old host will be see visiting during coming weeks are a penguin colony in the Antarctic, a volcano in Hawaii, the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and the far reaches of Earth's atmosphere, which he visits in a hot-air balloon.

The premiere episode is called "The Building of the Earth" and sets up what will follow, explaining how the Earth was formed, how continents move and how the planet has developed so many different environments. Next week the subject will be life in frozen areas, followed by forests on Feb. 17, jungles on Feb. 24 and grass on March 3.

"The Living Planet" also will be seen Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 24 and Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 50.

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