Earthflight (BBC1)

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Earthflight is hardly a new programme, having originally been shown on BBC1 over a year ago, but given that it’s currently in the middle of a rerun on the channel on Sundays I thought I was worth a quick mention nonetheless.

On one level this isn’t going to surprise anyone with even a passing familiarity to the BBC’s prodigious and indeed prestigious wildlife output, being the same reliable high-quality blend of fascinating nature facts and eye-popping photography. Along with Pixar animations, BBC wildlife programmes are surely what high-definition media was made for and Earthflight certainly doesn’t let the side down.

Elsewhere, a couple of things give this series a bit of an unusual twist from the usual BBC fare. One is that it has a particularly effective structure to it, being based on the migratory flights of birds with each of the six episodes featuring a different species of avian aviators on a different continent photographed using new techniques including cameras actually attached to the birds themselves to give a unique insight into what it’s like to fly and soar high in the sky. While the birds are central to the show, the series also takes time to stop off and look at the wildlife and geography at the different places that the birds stop off and stay during their epic journey, meaning there are plenty of other animals (either prey, or preying) sharing the screen to ensure it doesn’t get too narrow-focused. Read the rest of this entry »

Frozen Planet (BBC)

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Yes, it’s full of the incredible, dazzling photography for which the BBC Natural History film unit is renowned the world over. It’s possible to just sit in front of this for an hour with your mouth open, staring at it in wonder like the most gorgeous screen saver you’ve ever seen. But if I’m honest, I’m not nearly as gripped by this as I expected to be. I thought we’d see a weird, unfamiliar and totally alien icy landscape and the strange creatures able to survive there; but mostly we see the Frozen Planet thawed out in the Arctic summer, with the usual suspects of wolves and whales and polar bears. Even the deepest freeze seems to be dominated by penguins, who are surely the most over-exposed animal on the planet these days – I’m surprised they don’t all have Max Clifford on speed dial. The sense of deja vu is compounded by the series format which returns to the same animals each week at a different part of the year but again lends that “didn’t we see this last week…?” feel to proceedings. And at the risk of criticising a national icon, I’m even finding David Attenborough’s narration somewhat repetitive and over-familiar, as it sets up the next animal-on-animal slaughter with all the subtlety of Casualty’ “accident about to happen” scenarios and then milks the anthropomorphic pathos for all its worth. I guess it’s just me, and that I simply had too high a set of expectations for this series. Currently airing on BBC1 on Wednesdays at 9pm with a repeat on Sunday afternoon.

Part of a week of one-para reviews, designed to (a) put the “Short” back into Taking the Short View; (b) catch up on some past programmes I should have reviewed ages ago; and (c) get my post count back up!