Thank the Gods that I don’t believe in for the return of Sir David Attenborough. Actually, fuck the Gods, because I’m confident that they played no part in his life and, given the chance, would probably heavily censure Sir David’s work, which is contradictory to the religious dogma that they thrive on. No, I will thank evolution, the British education system and the BBC’s internal recruitment program, which allowed Sir David to be born, learn and subsequently rise to the upper echelons of a TV network, which have all in turn, enabled him to offer up masterpieces, such as, the Life series, Blue Planet, Planet Earth and now, ‘Nature’s Great Events’ (Wednesday 9pm BBC1).
So far, the broadcasting offerings of 2009 have been woefully poor. January started with ‘Demons’, a much advertised and hyped show, that was so absurd, boring and badly acted, that I couldn’t even muster the will to watch it, let alone write about it; then there were the endless adverts for ‘The Great British Food Fight’ – the ones with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tossing a chicken (in the air) in slow motion and Gordon Ramsey chalking his hands with flour – which must have disappeared into a black hole, because I don’t remember watching it, have no idea what it was about and care so little that I almost gave up trying to find out the actual name of the show on Google, in order to write this unnecessary article padding. In between this crap, however – the grout that fills the gaps of the schedule – is a new form of ‘entertainment’, which I will christen, ‘Nouveau Recession TV’. NRTV sifts out the poorest, fattest, stupidest, saddest and generally most hopeless and pathetic people in Britain, in order to showcase their misfortune before revolutionising their life, by either: buying them new clothes, making them eat new food, or encouraging them to be naked in public. The aim of NRTV is to instil the rest of the miserable downtrodden proletariat with the thought that, “Hey, I’m not as sad/fat/ugly/clothed (delete as applicable) as they were and look how happy/skinny/attractive/naked (delete as applicable) they are now! I should definitely stop worrying about my loss of earnings, mortgage arrears, credit card bills, electricity termination and starvation, so that I can go out and get a makeover, buy a new wardrobe and go on holiday.” It’s pure Keynesian economics, surreptitious transmitted into our brains via the medium of television . . . It’s Gordon Brown’s best work to date!
Perhaps in response to the rising number of people found hanging in front of their televisions, the BBC have decided to offer something that actually does make you feel better and I’m wholly glad that ‘nature’ is that thing; because, when it is as well produced, filmed and punctuated with the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough – one of the few broadcasters that can marry hard fact with metaphor in a manner that never sounds corny or hyperbolic – as Nature’s Great Events is, then it is a breathtaking spectacle and far more entertaining and interesting than any combination of NRTV can ever hope to be.
Some may argue that showing spectacular imagery of faraway and remote lands that betray none of the gloomy realities of our consumer living is tantamount to cruelty, especially during such a deep and persistent economic downturn . . . but I disagree. Some people have religion – which is drastically increasing, if the Church of England are to be believed (excuse the unintentionally bad pun) – but for those of us who prefer to believe in logic, then the beauty of pristine environments, whether or not we can ever afford to visit them or not, is a rare solace and refuge from nightmarish reality. As Richard Dawkins said in The God Delusion, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”, so I would add, “Isn’t it enough to know that such places in the World exist, without having to see them first hand?”
“I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire! Why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”