Beastly scriptwriter’s bungle in the jungle
Amazonia’s Giant Jaws 5pm, National Geographic Channel
HOW appropriate for election night, a program featuring reptiles with big teeth and tempers to match. But before the politics starts you can also watch this program about the black caiman crocodiles of the Amazon.
Perhaps the funsters who schedule pay television are making a joke by showing this. After all, a documentary about a natural world where the weak are lunch, when not eaten for breakfast, has a certain similarity to the campaign that ends tonight.
But, then again, what appears planning could be an accidental outcome, born of the way pay- TV shows are scheduled in any old order, much like the content of this program.
It looks as if the producers of Amazonia’s Giant Jaws had two lots of video, one of assorted animals, the other on the mating habits of the giant caiman. Stitched together they delivered a documentary. Thus, some of this show features a Brazilian wildlife expert, while another section follows a year in the life of one particular caiman.
As usual in these documentaries, the beast is given a name to make her more appealing. It sounds like Matisse, but however it is spelled I suspect it’s something that means huge, hungry and horrible in Portuguese; Matisse’s speed and agility are impressive, but she’s no oil painting.
The show features her trip up the river to breed, but because a crocodile swimming and nesting is not all that spectacular, Matisse’s domestic round is interspersed with images of other species. There are jaguars, many monkeys, three- toed sloths and all manner of birds. There are piranhas and huge otters that will eat anything that does not bite first. And very impressive they all are, too.
But the script isn’t. Piranhas are ‘‘ the terror of the Amazon’’, with teeth that ‘‘ can gouge steel’’. The lake where the caiman breed ‘‘ is a crocodilian carnivale’’. Then there are breathless announcements such as the claim that the caiman’s lake is ‘‘ so remote as to be almost inaccessible to outsiders’’, except of course National Geographic’s camera crew. There are also statements of the bleeding obvious, such as ‘‘ Matisse will breed successfully only if she can find a mate’’.
This is a documentary to watch for the various kinds of wildlife rather than information about them.
You will not miss much if you turn off the sound. At least you will not have to hear the closing line: ‘‘ The great black ghost of the flooded forest slips away.’’
Perhaps you should apply the same principal to the election coverage and watch it with the audio off. The commentators, like the crocodiles, will look better with the sound down.
Happy snaps: The caiman smiles for the camera