Ahh yes, Planet Earth Live
. The BBC sends lots of outside broadcast teams all over the world to do a three-week live broadcast of what's happening in the month of May. Lovely idea.
Then they got everything wrong.
Firstly, the presenters, Julia Bradbury and Richard Hammond. Both perfectly good presenters and as a matter of fact I've always liked Julia Bradbury's walking programmes. Richard Hammond - we are told - has always been interested in wildlife - - well, I have to say he's kept this a big secret. He's best known as one of the presenters of Top Gear
and was no doubt chosen for this in the hope of getting some petrolheads to watch it. But hey, he IS a good presenter and he's having a fair old stab at it - - though we're not getting a lot of expert knowledge from him beyond "Oooh look, there's a hippo."
So - - no presenters aboard with expert knowledge of wildlife then. It shows. And a producer who has decided to go for "family viewing" and who thinks that "family viewing" means "CUTE BABY ANIMALS IN PERIL."
Every bit of this programme - in the forests of North America, on the plains of Africa, and in some other place known as Meerkatland - is focused on Cute Baby Animals. And every bit of the commentary is "Here's a cute little baby animal. But what if something were to eat him? Tune in on Thursday to see if he's still alive or if he's been torn into little pieces by wolves."
The animals are cast as Goodies and Baddies. So we are worrying about the grey whale calves who are being hunted by killer whales, or orcas, as they migrate up the West Coast of America. We are not being encouraged to worry about the killer whale babies and how hungry they will be if their mummies and daddies don't manage to kill a yummy grey whale calf for their supper.
Nor are we being encouraged to worry about baby alligators, or baby lizards, or baby snakes. They don't have big eyes and they're not cute. No, animals are only cute if they look like a cartoon version of a human baby - - flat face, huge eyes. This is why pandas have it sussed. In spite of pandas having no desire to reproduce or even to stay alive, human beings will fall over backwards to stop pandas dying out, because they are CUTE.
So, as well as Will the Nasty Killer Whales Eat the Grey Whale Calf
?, we are looking at Will the Lion Cub Starve to Death? Will the Baby Elephant Drown? Will the Meerkats Get Run Over? Will the Bear Cubs Freeze in the Snow? Will the Cute Baby Monkey Fall Out of Its Tree and Die a Horrible Death Splattered on the Ground?
Julia Bradbury is in some foresty bit of North America with a lot of bears and that's okay because it's still light there when the programme is broadcast. Poor Richard Hammond, however, claims to be in Africa somewhere, in a tent. However, since it's always pitch dark when we see him, he could have done the whole thing from a garden in Bristol and we'd have been none the wiser. Let's face it, if you want great shots of animals, they need to be pre-recorded, and indeed the most interesting bits of this programme are the pre-recorded bits.
Even those are repeated several times in case we're hard of understanding, and to fill in the time. The rest of it, in spite of its claims to have wonderful teams of film-makers out there, is on the level of those old documentaries that we all used to mock. "Gee, here's a cute little fella."
Don't get me wrong - - I'm watching it. I'm watching it because it has pretty scenery and cute animals and from time to time I like to look up from my ironing and go "Awwwww." But I'd far rather watch a proper wildlife programme, not this pile of dumbed-down, patronising mush.
The BBC have spent squillions of pounds on making it, and the money could have been SO much better spent. Whoever's responsible for how it's turned out should be thoroughly ashamed.