Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Eight o'clock, and the cheetahs are in the diary room...

'Planet Earth Live; join us for the ultimate global wildlife drama.
Real animals. Real lives. In real time.'

"Welcome back to the Masai Mara, where the heavy rain has not dampened the spirits of Richard Hammond. Stuck in his tent amid the downpour, Hammond is reverting to his usual behaviour, gesticulating and chattering excitedly to camera; he must now use all his entertainment skills if the programme is to survive the next few weeks..."

Oh dear! Auntie has blown a massive chunk of our money on an all-squeaking, all-slaughtering Natural History jamboree and it's not going down at all well.

It was obviously meant to be a triumph of 'My Little Pony' broadcasting - make a list of the things viewers like best and put them all together in an incongruous one-size-pleases-all package - with hot and cold running popular presenters in exotic locations and lots of cute baby animals, some of which get eaten in exciting chase sequences.

The public, however, turned out to be resolutely ungrateful for this largesse; the first episode has brought a volley of complaints, not least about the fact that, despite the grandiose strapline above, the programme featured just 20 minutes of live footage consisting almost entirely of the presenters talking to camera, although a couple of buffalo were glimpsed in blurry night vision at one point.

However, the disgruntled viewers are, according to the BBC, quite literally missing the plot:
A spokesman for the BBC admitted that there was little live animal action but said the presenters were there to comment on the day’s news and stories and to provide analysis.
“A lot of it had been filmed that day on location and the footage was clearly signed as pre-packaged,” said the spokesman. “We consider the series to be a multi-media experience so the Twitter feed and website is key to the live action.”
So get with it, Grandpa - live TV is just so last year! Those hip young things at the BBC know what the viewers want, at least the viewers that matter; constant anthropomorphic soap opera is the order of the day, held together with lashings of cuteness and cheap sentimentality.

Thus it is that Hammond breathlessly describes a lioness as a 'single mum bringing up her son in difficult circumstances', while an elephant - 'Emily' - is 'a first-time mum who is finding things tricky'; all that's missing is Jamie Oliver recommending a list of healthy alternatives to decomposing zebra.

That being so, I suppose it makes perfect sense to choose wildlife programme presenters for their popular appeal rather than any expertise in the subject; perhaps the more intellectually demanding viewers should be grateful they were not invited to vote and say which of the the least talented animals should be fed to the lions.

This is Mother Nature as a pregnant 16-year-old with a Justin Bieber fixation.


  1. This is Mother Nature as a pregnant 16-year-old with a Justin Bieber fixation.


  2. Far too often with BBC doc's I find the overbearing, bossy and hectoring presenters a pain in the ear and elsewhere. Also the crass boom boom side effects and crash bang music often prevents hearing what is being said.

  3. Perhaps for next Sunday's installments the producers could train a camera on a patch of scrub grass for the entire hour, and see if they got any complaints. If they do, they can simply shrug and say 'Well, it's live tv. That's what you said you wanted!'

    It's a wonder some didn't complain that it was dark when the cameras switched over to Hammond in his tent!

  4. Planet Earth Live

    From the name alone you know it's going to be ghastly - with ghastly presenters gushing their little socks off.

  5. Thanks JH; we aim to entertain.

    Demetrius - very true, and truer by the day; I'd like to add wacky camera angles and the sort of hyperactive moving shots that leave you feeling seasick.

    Good point, Julia; actually, I'm not sure why exactly it needs to be live. I mean, it's not like it's the FA Cup or anything; does it really matter if it happened two hours ago - or two years, for that matter?

    AKH; the name - and that ridiculous Big Brother-style slogan.

  6. I actually enjoy nature, and would be happy to watch a show on cheetahs or whatever else. The idea though that I need constant running commentary - much less such commentary absent live TV - is truly infuriating.Then again, the nanny state can read my mind so it probably knows best.
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