TV and Ra­dio

David At­ten­bor­ough ex­plores the mir­a­cle of his cre­ation on ‘Blue Planet II’ while ‘Gen­er­a­tion What?’ asks mil­len­ni­als (al­most) any­thing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - PETER CRAW­LEY

Screen and sound re­views

Just what does the planet have to do to im­press David At­ten­bor­ough?

It isn’t that the iconic pre­sen­ter’s voice of quiet re­as­sur­ance is ever less than en­thu­si­as­tic about the hid­den won­ders of the nat­u­ral world in Blue Planet II (BBC One,

Sun­day, 8pm), which his warmly om­ni­scient nar­ra­tion sug­gests he might have ac­tu­ally cre­ated. That would ex­plain his in­ti­mate fa­mil­iar­ity with crea­tures and be­hav­iours never be­fore re­vealed to us. Ma­rine life and he; they roll deep.

In this gor­geous doc­u­men­tary, a feast of vi­su­als and, more sur­pris­ingly, sound that has been four years and sev­eral thou­sand leagues in the mak­ing, you en­counter dizzy­ing mysteries and qui­etly dev­as­tat­ing dis­cov­er­ies ev­ery cou­ple of min­utes.

An un­sus­pect­ing tern glides above the shim­mer­ing In­dian Ocean. Sud­denly in its hu­mon­gous mouth and whips it back down into the sea. “The gi­ant trevally,” At­ten­bor­ough says, in the un­flap­pable tone of a head­mas­ter en­coun­ter­ing the school ras­cal when a pale sil­very ap­pari­tion pro­pels it­self out of the wa­ter like a tom­a­hawk. It grabs an un­sus­pect­ing tern in its hu­mon­gous mouth, and whips it back into the shim­mer­ing In­dian Ocean. Only one thing stumps At­ten­bor­ough: why do mob­ula rays leap so ma­jes­ti­cally out of the wa­ter? “No one knows,” he whis­pers. Frankly, I think they just want to be on the show.

Who could blame them? Blue Planet II is an in­spir­ing and humbling ed­u­ca­tion.

To see a tiny, tech­ni­colour tusk­fish painstak­ingly bat­ter a clam open against an im­pro­vised anvil, is to recog­nise a fish us­ing tools and prob­lem-solv­ing skills. There’s al­ways a temp­ta­tion to an­thro­po­mor­phise an­i­mal be­hav­iour; to con­ceive of the dis­tinct evo­lu­tion and dis­play of sep­a­rate species as a kind of flat­ter­ing im­per­son­ation of our own.

At­ten­bor­ough is al­lowed one wry gag, at the fear­some sight of the Ja­panese kobu­dai fish, whose bul­bous face is some­thing even Hierony­mous Bosch would have con­sid­ered over the top. “In fe­male terms, he’s par­tic­u­larly hand­some,” says At­ten­bor­ough. Oh, David, you sly dog­fish.

Those terms, how­ever, are sub­ject to ex­tra­or­di­nary change. One fe­male kobu­dai skulks away to com­pletely trans­form gen­der, emerg­ing later to bru­tally de­pose the rul­ing male. So long, hand­some.

The pro­gramme em­ploys sim­i­larly ab­sorb­ing sto­ry­telling tech­nique, con­cen­trat­ing on a mother and child wal­rus, cho­sen from an un­happy wilder­ness, crammed to­gether on the vastly di­min­ish­ing ice­bergs of the Arc­tic. That 40 per cent of this ice has melted in the last 30 years should be alarm­ing enough. But the show un­der­stands the view­ing habits of its own fauna and, hope­fully, what it re­quired to budge them from com­pla­cency. Like that in­ge­nu­itive tusk­fish, Blue Planet II has its tools, and it knows how to use them.


While we’re on the sub­ject, are you aged be­tween 18 and 34? Have you ever had sex with a stranger? (Did you like it?) Have you ever made love with more than one per­son at the same time? (Care to elab­o­rate?) Ever mas­tur­bated? All right, pol­i­tics: You can ei­ther screw oth­ers over or get screwed your­self. Agree or dis­agree? These, a gen­uine sam­ple of a 149-question, pan-Euro­pean sur­vey into mil­len­nial at­ti­tudes, are ques­tions that ought to be an­swered with a question. Who’s ask­ing?

Gen­er­a­tion What? (RTÉ Two, Tues­day, 10.30pm), which be­gan as a tele­vised sur­vey in France in 2013, and has since spread to re­spon­dents in 14 Euro­pean coun­tries hun­gry for sim­plis­tic snap­shots, is ap­par­ently so down with the kidz it can even ask if you’ve ever smoked a doo­bie with your freakin’ par­ents! Oh, no you di’int, Gen­er­a­tion What! Strange, then, that it should shy away com­pletely from one of the most ob­vi­ous and heated ques­tions fac­ing this gen­er­a­tion.

The Ir­ish edi­tion is pre­sented by the af­fa­ble Eoghan McDermott, whose leather biker jacket seems a more hon­est choice than a lab coat. McDermott teases out the re­sults with a his­tory pro­fes­sor (“On a friv­o­lous note, the way mil­len­ni­als speak . . . ” he prods), a pair of so­ci­ol­o­gists on high stools, a panel that in­cludes a politi­cian, a jour­nal­ist and a very apolo­getic priest, a con­spic­u­ously di­verse stu­dio au­di­ence, and a gal­axy of talk­ing heads filmed at home in Ire­land and abroad – the last of whom con­vey most sense.

Take one man’s level-headed re­sponse to this pre­sum­ably poorly trans­lated doozie: There is too much sex. Yes or no? “The way they use sex to sell ev­ery­thing now, it’s pa­thetic,” he says. Thus shamed, the show will only stick with the topic for the first quar­ter of its run­ning time.

Still, the in­ter­sec­tion of the body and pol­i­tics is an ur­gent is­sue for young peo­ple to­day, who,

Re­mem­ber, mil­len­ni­als, don’t trust any­one over 34. ‘Gen­er­a­tion What?’ won’t stop ask­ing you about sex, but when it comes to con­se­quences, it doesn’t want to know

to breeze through other find­ings, are mostly lib­eral, broadly fem­i­nist, bit­terly alert to in­equal­ity, sig­nif­i­cantly ap­pre­cia­tive of same-sex re­la­tion­ships, re­cep­tive to im­mi­gra­tion, and, by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity (80 per cent), ut­terly in­dif­fer­ent to re­li­gion.

Why, then, among the gen­er­a­tion most likely to be af­fected by the is­sue, is there not a sin­gle question, an­swer or opin­ion vol­un­teered on the sub­ject of abor­tion? Did a sur­vey that won­ders so frankly about your ex­pe­ri­ence with sex toys and S&M, never think to ask about preg­nan­cies, wanted or oth­er­wise? It’s here that the whole op­er­a­tion, and the Ir­ish un­der­tak­ing es­pe­cially, seems un­for­giv­ably craven. Re­mem­ber, mil­len­ni­als, don’t trust any­one over 34. Gen­er­a­tion What? won’t stop ask­ing you about sex, but when it comes to con­se­quences, it doesn’t want to know.

‘Al­ter­na­tive’ eco­nom­ics

There’s an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment, early in David McWil­liams’ Ire­land (TV3, Thurs­day, 10pm), when its pre­sen­ter de­scribes the prop­erty mar­ket as a dan­ger­ous run­away train, then some­how adopts a voice haugh­tier than his own when im­i­tat­ing a naysayer. He calls this per­son “a main­stream economist”. That begs an ob­vi­ous question: what the hell is David McWil­liams?

The im­pli­ca­tion is that the pre­pos­sess­ing na­tional broad­caster, news­pa­per colum­nist, po­lit­i­cal cabaret host and best-selling au­thor is an “al­ter­na­tive” economist, or, bet­ter still, an “in­die” economist. McWil­liams, who fa­mously pre­dicted the last crash, kicks out the dis­mal sci­ence jams The Man doesn’t want you to hear: four chords and the fidu­ciary truth.

That sense is am­pli­fied by his new show for TV3, which aches to be de­scribed as a rock’n’roll eco­nomic cabaret. It is an­nounced by a live gui­tar and drums duo, grind­ing out the same chunky riff through ev­ery ad break, as though to il­lus­trate the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns.

It is ini­ti­ated with a DMW mono­logue, couched in a plain-folks anec­dote, on the sub­ject to hand: whether we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an­other prop­erty bub­ble so soon after the last catas­tro­phe. (Spoiler: We are.) In his prac­ticed ev­ery­man tones, McWil­liams of­fers a clear anal­y­sis of how sky­rock­et­ing hous­ing prices can still panic a mar­ket into buy­ing, while the rental mar­ket, with prices higher than ever be­fore, is stuck.

McWil­liams fore­tells “a calamity much worse than the last one”, a sit­u­a­tion, he con­cludes, that is “ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­for­give­able”. The au­di­ence en­er­get­i­cally ap­plauds. He’s a hit.

That spiel leads to sev­eral pop-up panel dis­cus­sions con­ducted with spe­cial­ists and the hoi pol­loi, on fold-out plas­tic chairs around a sparse stu­dio. The whole she­bang is pe­ri­od­i­cally in­ter­rupted by mi­cro rou­tines from cheeky-chap co­me­dian An­drew Maxwell and an ex­tended Leo Varad­kar im­pres­sion from Oliver Cal­lan.

Stand-up comedy and eco­nom­ics have both been la­belled the new rock’n’roll in their time, but they show lit­tle nat­u­ral over­lap here other than to make it an ex­ces­sively blokey show. The se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion should give you an­tag­o­nisms: par­tic­u­larly the ar­tic­u­late pes­simism of fi­nan­cial ex­pert and for­mer mort­gage bro­ker Karl Deeter and the ef­fec­tive op­ti­mism of Hugh Brennan’s hous­ing co-op­er­a­tive, Ó Cualann. The mild, top­i­cal comedy (you couldn’t call it satire) just laughs them off.

For all his dis­missal of the main­stream, McWil­liams has never con­cealed his de­sire to be pop­u­lar: he is mer­rily riled when one of the few women speak­ers archly de­scribes one real­ity for teach­ers and quite an­other for cos­set­ted TV pre­sen­ters. Here he tries to of­fer so­lu­tions rather than out­line the prob­lem, but, mer­ci­fully, he won’t be glib.

“The economist in me can’t see a way out of it right now, un­for­tu­nately,” he con­cludes. That seems em­blem­atic of the show, wedged be­tween eco­nom­ics and en­ter­tain­ment, and, like that para­dox­i­cal mar­ket, si­mul­ta­ne­ously pan­icked and stuck.

Eoghan McDermott’s biker jacket in ‘Gen­er­a­tion What?’ is a more hon­est choice than a lab coat

Pho­to­graph: Tony Wu/BBC

Two male kobu­dai fight­ing. When a fe­male kobu­dai reaches a cer­tain size and age she can turn into a male.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.