Thursday, March 05, 2009

Nature Not Neglect

I’m a sucker for the nature documentaries made by the BBC Natural History Unit. Last night that proved to be unfortunate. With Nature’s Great Events on BBC1 following the unique sardine run up the east coast of South Africa clashing with the first part of BBC2’s Building The Olympic Dream, charting the preparation and performance of the official handover at the tail end of the Beijing closing ceremony, I was torn between what to watch.

One was about a group with a single purpose in mind being attacked on all side. The other was about the wankers who devised that fucking abortion involving a transforming red double decker bus and David Beckham punting a football into a crowd. Although the winter sardine run had previously been featured in an earlier documentary series, as much as I couldn’t take my eyes off these cretins making a complete balls up of everything and blaming everyone around them, I couldn’t help but flick back to watch as the shoal made up of hundreds of millions of sardines were attacked by one predator after another.

The footage was simply astonishing, whether it was the aerial views of the dolphin super-pod tracking the sardines north to ambush them at Waterfall Bluff or the seals floating in the calmer waters, sunning themselves as they waited for the fish to arrive in their neck of the woods. Once the narrow band of cold water pushed the shoal into the shallows, first the sharks arrived to have a crack at them, then the dolphins arrived, bringing the sharks back for another go.

Just when it looked like the little sardines were getting away a bloody great Bryde’s whale rose up from the deep to take out ten thousand fish in one big gulp. All the while the squadrons of dive-bombing gannets entered the fray, hitting the water at 60 mph and pursuing the fish to a depth of twenty metres below the surface. While their underwater exploits were utterly astonishing, footage taken from a distance, of the waves of birds crashing into the sea, made them look like raindrops splashing into a puddle.

I probably watched far more of the documentary than intended because every time I switched back to Building The Olympic Dream the head of ceremonies and his event producer were either being told they were brilliant or whining that everything was coming apart at the seems, putting them in the soup at The Bird’s Nest Stadium. All their ire apparently seemed to be directed at the Chinese for not helping with every little petulant demand because for those few weeks in Beijing they obviously had fuck all to do other than serve the Brits.

In the end, just as Channel 4 finished with their series of outlandish “toffs and crims” documentaries, now we had “tits and crips” twatting around the London 2012 bus while the whole world stared open-mouthed in disbelief at the shocking ineptitude of the whole enterprise. I wonder if everyone who ran to defend the absolute horror of that eight-minute handover ceremony, saying it was simply ace and skill, would still take the same misguided stance knowing that the whole sequence cost two million quid. I mean, Jesus Christ!

The strange this was that this evening, before the start of Red Riding, I was planning to re-watch the documentary in its entirety on iPlayer. Except, nearly twenty-four hours after its initial broadcast, the documentary remains listed as ‘Not Available’. Why? Did the 2012 Olympic Committee object to the fact that they were shown to be a complete bunch of inept tossers who obviously couldn’t organise (in the words of Malcolm Tucker) “a bum rape in the barracks”?


At 3:31 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

There are still a few rare pockets of quality out there.

I'm not a huge wildlife fan (that thing about sardines just made me hungry) but even I was moved by David Attenborough's almost poignant tribute to Charles Darwin a couple of weeks back, featuring as it did some perfectly chosen moments from Dave's long career on the box.

These programmes give us a glimpse of what the BBC used to be. Now it's all shite drama, wall-to-wall U2 and swindling Watchdog presenters (who are innocent, of course, until proven guilty).

At 4:31 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

With so many documentaries plummeting into the depths of idiocy or adding sensational elements because they think that’s what is needed to attract the stinking, moronic masses, the NHU hangs in there, serving up the most remarkable footage.

It’s also a nice reminder that however much concrete we pour over everything or episodes of sodding EastEnders are made, this isn’t our planet. We just happen to be here along with all the myriad number of species.

I suppose I’ve done a fair bit of travelling but there are places I haven’t visited and probably never will, so it’s good that the NHU goes out there and brings the pictures back. I learnt to scuba dive in Key West years back and it was good fun but there’s no way I’d want to be dropped in the middle of that sardine “bait ball” with sharks swimming around and gannets spearing into the water from above.

Once David Attenborough’s mellifluous voiceover is added, I’m sold. And his Darwin tribute was simply perfect. My folks are usually hacked off by the quality of current television but the next time I spoke to them after the programme was transmitted, the first thing they asked was whether I had watched it.

I’m really looking forward to the three-parter on Yellowstone National Park.


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