Our Planet (Netflix)
David Attenborough jumping ship from the BBC? Talk about ravens leaving the Tower.
Except, of course, he’s not really. It’s more the fact that, as our most persuasive advocate for environmental activism, Sir David couldn’t really turn down the chance to bang the drum on Netflix’s global digital soapbox.
As such, he came right out of the blocks at the top of the show with a warning that ‘for the first time in human history, the stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted’.
Clarion calls aside, Our Planet cleaves firmly to the Planet Earth / Blue Planet formula, employing breathtaking cinematography to showcase the rich wonders of the natural world. And that doesn’t just mean the animal kingdom: some of the most striking images are of billowing clouds, desert storms, lightning strikes and sunlight slanting through the rainforest canopy, like the world’s most jaw-dropping screensaver. In Greenland, meanwhile, cameras captured the moment 75 million tonnes of ice sheared off and plunged into the sea – a box office moment of terrible beauty.
There’s nature red in tooth and claw as well, of course: the sequence of wild dogs hunting baby wildebeest in the Serengeti was classic, Attenborough 101 stuff – though on this occasion the calves got away, as did the caribou being stalked by wolves in the frozen Boreal forest. Not all endings were as happy, though: the stumbling death of a lone flamingo chick on a vast African saltpan was genuinely upsetting.
Light relief came in the form of dance number, courtesy of the extraordinary, carefully rehearsed and choreographed group mating ritual performed by a troupe of red-capped manakin birds.
Every bit as impressive as Sir David’s recent blockbusters, Our Planet is not so much Netflix parking its tanks on the BBC’s lawn as driving them straight through the doors of Broadcasting House.
As its host knows only too well, though, this is about a much bigger battle than the one between rival broadcasters. This is an urgent call to arms to treasure the staggering gift of nature – before it’s too late.
Celebrity Painting Challenge (BBC One)
The BBC’s answer to Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year puts the celebs on the other side of the canvas (with the exception of Keith Allen, who kept the pixelation team busy as an all-too keen nude life model). Among the amateur artists taking up easels are Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Phil Tufnell and Jane Seymour, who has mastered the art of faint praise, coolly regarding one of Tuffers’ efforts before remarking: ‘It’s got a lot of… energy.’
Don’t Forget the Driver (BBC2)
There’s something of the languid, melancholy quality of Detectorists in this beautifully filmed comedy drama – and not just because it stars Toby Jones, who has co-written the script with Tim Crouch. Jones is pitch-perfect as Pete, a put-upon coach driver whose already less-than sunny life in Bognor takes a dark turn when he comes up against a people trafficking racket. It’s not as funny as Detectorists, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 11, 2019
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