Planet Earth II


I’ve confessed before to my – frankly indefensible – indifference to David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. So when the great man proclaimed, in the opening moments of Planet Earth II, ‘it’s impossible not to be impressed by the sheer grandeur and splendour and power of the natural world,’ it almost sounded like a challenge.

An hour later, you won’t be surprised to learn that Sir Dave was right, and I was wrong. In fact, ‘impressive’ doesn’t really cover it. Planet Earth II is breathtaking.

The real genius of the BBC’s Natural History team is their ability to crunch down the endless wonders of the world into a series of cute, funny or heart-stopping mini-dramas – many of them highly relatable, revolving as they are wont to do around food and sex. 

In this week’s opener, Islands, we watched a pygmy sloth leap into action after hearing a female booty call. (Well, he leapt into action by sloth standards anyway. It takes them a while to get to first base.) Meanwhile, Komodo dragons fought over prey like a real-life Game of Thrones, with just as much blood and entrails. In the Antarctic, an albatross waited patiently for his mate, and began to suspect he’d been stood up. (Maybe she felt he was a bit of a, well, albatross.) In the Galapagos, terrifying racer snakes chasing down newly-hatched marine iguanas was genuinely the stuff of nightmares, while on the volcanic island of Zavodovski, we followed a chinstrap penguin on his commute back to his family, in a colony of 1.5 million. And you thought remembering where you parked the car at Waitrose was difficult.

A decade on from the original Planet Earth, technology has advanced sufficiently to allow us to get up close and inside these stories like never before. It’s the TV that HD was created for. Plus, in Attenborough, we have the world’s most huskily persuasive voice on climate change, and the devastating impact of human beings on the Earth’s fragile eco-system. In our post-truth, ‘post-expert’ age, this is one national treasure who feels more valuable than ever. And only an idiot could ever think otherwise.

TV extra:



We’re mourning the loss of Poldark in our house. Not so much the series as the man who, during this second season, went from brooding, noble hero to colossal twonk and, quite possibly, rapist. Even when he wasn’t forcing himself on that sopping wet blanket Elizabeth, he spent more time thinking about his ruddy mine than his own wife and child. Clearly, the awesome Demelza is now the hero of the show. ‘My idiocy has been spectacular,’ the great ninny admitted in this week’s finale. On that, at least, we can all agree.


Dark Heart

Premiering on ITV Encore – presumably because someone assumed we **must** have seen an ITV thriller called Dark Heart before – this sadistic tale of a masked vigilante targeting unconvicted peadophiles, adapted from Adam Creed’s book Suffer the Children, crossed the line into full-on torture porn. Surprising, perhaps, from writer Chris Lang, whose Unforgotten was such a model of intelligent restraint. But there was probably only so much he – or the fine cast, headed by Tom Riley – could do with such lurid, Death Wish-style source material. Yuk.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, November 10, 2016

(c) Waitrose Weekend