Frogs and family figure in possible swan song
Attenborough remains scientific even though you sense he’s in love with frogs
Life in Cold Blood 7.30pm, Nine
NO, the title is not a reference to the Nine Network’s shabby handling of Steve Jacobs’s first venture out of his comfort zone as Today ’ s weather man into the bright lights of prime time. The Power of Ten, which was due to air in this timeslot last week, was ruthlessly pulled at short notice.
But quicker than you could say cross- promotion, Nine went to air with this magnificent naturalist series the day after host David Attenborough appeared on 60 Minutes with a fawning Liz Hayes, who declared Attenborough a what- you- see- iswhat- you- get kind of guy.
At 81, who would have the energy to be anything else? To be sure, Attenborough seems a lovely fellow who has spent his life doing what he does best: fossicking for treasure in the natural world, then sharing it with his estimated 500 million viewers.
It is entirely possible that Life in Cold Blood, a study of the evolution and habits of amphibians and reptiles, will be, if you’ll pardon the pun, Attenborough’s swan song.
If it should mark the full stop on a naturalist essay that has run for more than 50 years, it will be a worthy end.
When it debuted last week, we witnessed some of the secrets of reptiles, in particular the time scales on which they operate. I’ll never forget the sight of a giant snake crushing a young deer to death, then swallowing it whole. It takes hours for a snake to swallow a deer, and though snakes are cold- blooded, they do need to breathe. The answer? The snake extends its windpipe beyond its mouth while it snarfs down the deer, antlers, fur, hooves, the lot. After that, it doesn’t need to eat for years.
Tonight it’s the turn of amphibians in Land Invaders. As always, Attenborough remains scientific and is never sentimental, even though you sense he is completely in love with frogs. He does not anthropomorphise, preferring to attribute natural rather than human motives to the animals he studies. But there is comedy as a male frog adheres itself to the much larger female of the species, then some other daffy males adhere themselves to it; ingenuity as the giant male African bullfrog digs a canal to free the tadpoles it protects in a drying pond so they can survive in the main stream; and great tenderness as a male gold frog waves to a potential mate, even if she turns out to be male. But above all there is wonder in viewing the intricate web of life through the gaze of this remarkable yet humble adventurer. Perhaps Hayes was right to be awe- struck.
Pleased to meet you: David Attenborough with an amphibian friend