Television is usually such a disappointment to me. Channel upon channel of chat shows showcasing “hot new talent” (three words that become more diluted with every series of X-Factor), prime time gritty dramas (gritty because the camera’s hand-held) and ‘One Born Every Minute’, the bastard offspring of reality TV and The Family Planning Clinic. This is what I pay my licence fee for? The only things I watch are the news (guaranteed to never be a repeat – brilliant!), anything involving nature and my hero David Attenborough, and documentaries about things I’m better off not knowing.
So imagine my surprise on Thursday night when not one but two things were on that I was interested in watching. First up, “The Polar Bear Family and Me”, annoyingly on at 9.30pm. Annoying because at 10pm Channel 4 was showing a documentary called “Gypsy Blood” and which came with a curiosity-piquing warning of “strong language, graphic violence and scenes of animals being killed” (yeah, I know. WTF?!). Dammit, what to do?
I kicked off swearing allegiance to the polar bears. They’re endangered and should reign supreme as far as televisual air time is concerned. People need to know, and this programme would add ammunition to my already well-stocked Save the Planet artillery, to use when
lecturing discussing the environment with anyone who still needs convincing. But this wasn’t Attenborough at the helm (obviously – he’s busy in Africa right now. And the Galapagos). It was Gordon Buchanan. Hmmm. Scottish though. He had 20 minutes to win me over.
These 20 minutes were filled with some fairly distressing footage of two polar bears trapped on the barren Svalbard staring starvation and death in the face (though nothing I hadn’t seen before in an amazing little documentary called ‘Spy On The Ice’ last year). Shots of Gordon wearing a survival suit and jumping about on a boat were questionable, but the crew did get very close to the bears which I was pleased about. Unfortunately I missed the money-shot where a bear comes to explore, then tries to eat, the perspex cube housing Mr B and his equipment.
Maybe this was the problem. Come 10pm alas I wasn’t fully engaged. Whilst Mr Buchanan was and is clearly an ally to these bears, the script was terrible. Every two minutes he was banging on about how worried he was about Lyca and Micky (the bears). I was worried too, but he wasn’t really educating me or taking me forward from this. He seemed to be more of a Michael Palin-style presenter – the sort who’s paid to go on holiday and do cool stuff whilst the cameras roll, yet the world stays the same and we all sit in our homes wondering how this buffoon got the job.
So when 10pm heralded the arrival of car-crash television in the guise of the gypsy documentary I guiltily changed the channel and vowed to watch the plight of these bears on iPlayer over the weekend.
With that in mind, I decided today to have a look and see what the national press had to say about ‘The Polar Bear Family and Me’. Specifically I wanted to know if the 20 minutes or so I gave it just happened to be the lull in an otherwise educational, fact-filled and remedy-suggesting script. I typed in “last night’s television” and let Google lead the way…to the Guardian’s TV review page, where TV Critic Sam Wollaston reviewed the polar bears along with a programme about a fertility clinic (more reality-based birthing. Why?).
Which leads me to the point – my outrage that this man can call himself a journalist, attach his name to a national newspaper (albeit The Guardian) and churn out such lazy, meandering, pointless drivel. He seemed to be more intent on trying to set up some sort of extended geometry joke than commenting on the programme. When he did comment, he was grudgingly impressed and sneeringly disparaging in the same breath, with a full paragraph spent describing the photo that’s been all over the press of the bear trying to break into the Cube and which we’ve all seen anyway – most recently at the top of his article.
Surely it’s fairly essential for a critic’s colours to be nailed to the mast one way or another? Yet it’s not clear what he thought about Gordon Buchanan’s Svalbard expedition or the content of the programme. What is clear to me, however, is that this Mr Wollaston is a bit of an arsehole, and whoever paid him for this piece of monkey-shit masquerading as journalism needs their jotters as well. And the geometry joke wasn’t even funny! P45s all round.
Of course once he’s been fired, no doubt The Guardian will come banging on my door, begging me to take his place. Well, they’ll have to wait. Because I’ve got a documentary about polar bears to watch first.