Sunday, 13 May 2012

Planet Earth Live BBC1 TV REVIEW

LET ME introduce Sophia and Diablo. Who? They are Peruvian otters actually, which makes them sound far more exotic and interesting than they really are. They are also the “stars” of Planet Earth Live (BBC1, Wednesday), a new wildlife soap opera from the national broadcaster. Indeed, it’s a global soap with stars in several continents. In the masai mara in Africa we have moja, a starving lion cub, who enjoys biting down on a stick (compelling), the otters of Peru (parents Sophia and Diablo), and finally the black bears of North America: Juliet, Sybil, Sam, Sophie and Little Herbie. Sorry, have we just arrived at a ghastly birthday party in London’s well-to-do muswell Hill? Why aren’t any of these animals called Amy, Billie or Joey? that’s a list of “characters” from the Only Way is essex but you can see where we’re going. We haven’t even got to the meerkats yet who will be of course called Alexsandr, Olov and Sergei. Planet earth “Yesterday” just hasn’t worked. Why have we suddenly decided that every animal in the world needs a name, preferably a very middle class one, is young and innocent, is desperately under threat from a predator and will more than likely perish (we hope) within the time frame of this series. Presenter Richard Hammond, who is dreadfully miscast in this role and divides audiences, can barely disguise his breathless melodrama as he talks about lion cub moja and the way his mother is failing to provide for him. Ring Social Services! It’s a jungle out there, isn’t it, Richard? Hammond has cut a bewildered figure, mostly standing in the rain, in a large hat, in the dark, claiming that there are animals lurking nearby who might attack him at any time. Strangely enough, some members of the animal kingdom don’t go out of their way to seek attention. “Just before we came on air, I saw something out there,” said Hammond, with a straight face. It’s OK, Richard. Some of us are over the age of 12. The “truth” is that he hasn’t actually left the top Gear studio in Surrey. may and Clarkson have just turned off the lights and cued up the sound effects track. What about this for another Hammondism? “the [animal] reserve is relatively small, about the size of Glasgow.” Perfectly clear. Some of us were looking forward to this show but inevitably if the programme doesn’t live up to its title, viewers are bound to be disappointed and feel let down. These shows cost a fortune. millions. If it works, it’s money well spent. If not, it’s a very large train wreck crashing across several continents and we are paying for it. THE MAIN action involving the otters under threat from the nasty cayman in Peru had happened a full month earlier. So Planet Earth: A Long Long time Ago! Children will inevitably watch this show because it’s a pre-watershed slot but why the need to talk down to them like you’re reading a five-year-old a pop-up book? “Oooh, look at that nasty cayman sliding in...” they are animals! I notice the “evil” characters, the predators, were not named. they are no better than poachers. No name for the cayman or the hyena. might I suggest Voldemort and Hannibal respectively? Why not applaud the predator? the BBC is discriminating against the “fit” and supporting the victim. this is the animal kingdom not a sink estate in Peckham. We did finally get some “live” action from co- presenter Julia Bradbury. She picked over some wolf poo. Says it all, really. You can go off television shows. When The Voice (BBC1, Saturday and Sunday) arrived, it was a fresh, new format, unveiling striking new artists who would never have dared put themselves before Simon Cowell and The X Factor. They would arrive humbly on stage to discover the backs of their potential “coaches”, and had to encourage them to “turn the chair”. Then you had that awkward few moments after a coach faced them, and had to discover their names etc, before the singer decided on a mentor. It had tension, drama, awkwardness, everything. It was a success. Now the live shows have arrived and we have gravitated to yet another talent show. And the coaches? Well, they have not discovered the joys of self-editing yet. Will someone tell them that it’s “not about them” but the singers. Danny and Will.i.am could clear a room in minutes talking about how wonderful The Voice is for Britain, the talent, themselves, the world economy, the famine in Africa. You’re spoiling it. Sir Tom Jones, thankfully, knows when to shut up. For that, we are grateful to him and on that basis he is by far our favourite coach. When you read this Britain’s Got talent (ITV1, last night) will have another winner. These four judges, unlike their BBC counterparts, know exactly how much to say when most acts leave us speechless. David Walliams has been an out-and-out star this year mocking each and every act and Simon Cowell in equal measure. As for the others, Alesha Dixon should never have left Strictly Come Dancing and Amanda Holden should push for a second series of her axed comedy Big Top. WHAT OF the ringmaster? Cowell is the definition of a professional talent spotter. On again hearing The Loveable Rogues, the group who write their own catchy songs, he rubbed his hands and declared: “I cannot tell you how happy I am that you are on my show.” Next year he will call BGT “Britain’s Got Talent, And It’s All Mine”.