This week marked the start of a much hyped new BBC TV series called Planet Earth Live. Of course, being nature lovers, we had to tune in. Let’s face it, who could fail to be tempted by a program that promises to reveal the intimate lives of wild animals, and is presented by two of our most lovable TV stars (neither of which, unfortunately, are wild animal experts – but that’s just a minor detail).
And I have to say that the photography was just as amazing as we’ve got used to from similar BBC blockbusters such as Plant Earth (not Live), The Blue Planet, and the amazing Frozen Planet. Though showing some unrelated scraps of film of a lion’s teeth just to illustrate how clever the camera operators are seemed a bit self-congratulatory. And the dreadful attempts at humour by the presenters, or that the one who specializes in shows about fast cars had to keep pointing out which of the big four wheel drive vehicles was his, surely didn’t gain them any fans.
But where I began to wonder about the whole nature of this nature extravaganza, which will be broadcast twice a week for the rest of May, is that pretty much none of it is actually live. Other than the presenters doing the “walk and talk” stuff and some fairly vague “chat with map” bits that really told you nothing, everything was “action that we recorded earlier”. Of course, it doesn’t help that “live” here in the UK is the middle of the night where they are. Or that it was raining so heavily in the Masai Mara that nobody really wanted to go outside.
I suppose you can’t expect a program to actually be “live” because it’s likely that you’d sit there for the whole hour that it’s on and nothing would happen. And it was cute to see the trailer for the bit where the meerkat is sitting on the cameraman’s head. But, like so many of these programs, the focus is on “the human story” (even though they are animals) and focusing on the ones that aren’t going to (or didn’t) make it to adulthood.
While there are four huge prides of lions in the area, and it would be great to see how they live and behave, we instead had to watch a lone mother with a cub that is starving. Likewise, we had to see how a clueless mother in a leaderless group of elephants will (and did) lose her baby, and be told in detail how bad a mother one of the black bears is (until, thankfully, we discovered at the end of the sequence that she actually isn’t that bad). But never mind, they did replay the cute “Ahhhhhh” moments several times, even accompanied by the presenter who’d just had a baby herself crying a bit to emphasize it.
But I suppose it’s not as bad as The Big Cat Diary series where they were so short of material they had to show every clip six times, and then have three different people analyze each one. Or, as in the other nature program currently gracing our screens (Foxes Live: Wild in the City), keep telling us what other viewers are tweeting. If I wanted to know that, I’d look on Twitter. At least with Foxes Live you can go on the web and stare for hours at the live view from a camera, where nothing is happening.
It’s a good thing David Attenborough is still alive or he’d be turning in his grave…