Sunday 3 February 2019

Watching the Watchers

The new gang

BBC bias is the meat and drink of Sue and I's free-to-view cottage industry blog, but that doesn't preclude us from praising the BBC for (largely) non-biased fare that gives delight and hurts not.

And this past week's Winterwatch on BBC Two has been absolutely magnificent - especially as the snow fell live on TV, almost Narnia-like in its magic at times. 

(Cue scowl from Chris Packham). 

'The Watches' don't just involve us with wildlife, of course. They involve people too. 

In their first years, the magnificent trio of Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and Simon King ruled the roost. 

Bill was odd, as prickly as a hedgehog, but splendid in his love and knowledge of nature; Kate was his put-upon-but-enthusiastic sidechick, who also knew her stuff; and Simon was the deeply-knowledgeable man of action, camped out on a blasted heath somewhere with an expensive piece of kit. 

Then Bill, who had long suffered from depression, got suddenly and mysteriously dropped; Kate moved on; and Simon departed for a business career leading high-price personal tours. 

Meanwhile, Chris Packham arrived. 

He didn't go down well to begin with the 'Watch'-watchers, but 'Watch' fans have grown to deeply appreciate him. Learning of his Asperger's helped fill in the gaps of our appreciation of him. Much more importantly, he knows his stuff too and is passionate about it. He's as cussed at Bill Oddie but, especially having met him (and found him sympathetic), I very much like him. But, yes, he is an activist, and the BBC - despite the odd telling-off - still cuts him some slack in that regard.

Happy Michaela

With him came Michaela Strachan - smiley, smiley, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, BBC children's nature programmes, Pete Waterman, etc. She was clearly meant to be the Kate Humble-replacing sparring partner from Bill's replacement Chris, but has never seemed quite as knowledgeable. Still, she certainly can smile and play the straight act in a comedy duo.

And with her came Martin Hughes-Games, whose first 'Watch; series saw him camping it up as if John Inman had been given a tutorial from Danny La Rue and then got overruled by Julian Clary.

Later series (and his personal biography) showed him to be much more of a white, middle-aged male heterosexual than he first presented himself. 

He was then dropped.

And in his wake came Gillian Burke - female, black, and with a markedly 'diverse' accent. 

Pretty much everyone could see what the BBC was up to in including her, especially as Martin H-G spilled the beans beforehand.

It was all about 'diversity'.

Unshowy Gillian struggled in her first series but is now growing in confidence and winning admirers.

Getting-better Gillian

Meanwhile, the latest 'Watch', Winterwatch, has reversed the diversity trend by introducing a second white, middle-aged male who knows his stuff, Iolo Williams. 

And Iolo has been making himself at home in the Winterwatch camp, spreading his manly legs wide to mansplain the facts.

Poor Martin, trying ever so hard, must have seriously misjudged the BBC here. A manly man might have got him through after all, if he'd been diversely Welsh enough. 

And thus ends this post, which presents one of the BBC's finest nature series as if it were a sociologically-informed soap opera - which, to some degree, it is.

Not that that's what really interests me about it. I prefer the waxwings, wildcats. pine marten, mountain hare, urban deer, etc, plus the stunning winter footage and the snow flakes falling during the live programme, and the science - including the graphs and diagrams and experiments.

A winter woodcock

Here's to the next Springwatch then, when hopefully Chris and Iolo will engage in a competition to spread their explanatory legs as far apart as a man can go and Martin gets reintroduced (George Monbiot-style) and beats them as the show's alpha-male, and balances avoiding completely doing the splits in his mansplaining (whilst getting very, very close) by diving into huge badger cesspools and shouting in the manner of Ray Winstone. 

And I pray to St. William of Oddie that Gillian is giving the chance to grow even further and doesn't get replaced by a transgender Sir Lenny Henry. 

But, we all know what the BBC is like...

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it's the sort of thing the BBC does well or even uniquely.I don't regularly watch so I don't know all of those mentioned but I happened to see Kate Humble in a couple of programmes lately where she was travelling with nomads up in the Arctic and in Nepal. She won the friendship and admiration of the nomads and seemed like a strong fine woman and good egg.


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