Want to see Africa? Then go with Attenborough, not smug Romesh
TeLeVISIOn is more ignorant, patronising, less informative and simply stupider than 50 years ago — and if anyone doubts that, the proof is on BBC iPlayer.
First, take a look at The Misadventures Of Romesh Ranganathan (BBC2). the 41-year-old comedian and stalwart of numerous panel shows was despatched to make a travelogue about Zimbabwe.
Cynical and smug, never bothering with a joke when sarcasm will do, he sneered his way across the country like a know-all teenager determined to prove he’s too cool for the school trip.
On a steamer crossing a lake to spot elephants and hippos, for instance, he was only interested in re- enacting scenes from titanic. Laboured though the gag was, it was sparkling wit compared to his reaction to sighting the big game: ‘Oh my God, simultaneous p*** and s*** from that elephant.’
Contrast that with Adventure, a three-part voyage in 1965 down the Zambezi from source to sea with David Attenborough, available on the Beeb’s website.
Panoramic footage of the Victoria Falls and thrilling encounters with wildlife at the water’s edge conveyed Africa’s kaleidoscopic beauty, even though the footage was in black-and-white. Attenborough, then two years younger than Romesh is today, bubbled with knowledge and eager charm as he chatted to camera.
One backdrop in particular highlighted how tawdry and dull the modern style has become.
Both shows visited the ancient ruins of Great Zimbabwe, according to legend once the palace of the Queen of Sheba and built long before the arrival of europeans.
Attenborough examined the masonry techniques, urged us to recreate ancient splendours in our imagination and revealed one of the monument’s secrets — a stone loudspeaker that could send whispers booming for over a mile.
When Romesh visited, he kicked a couple of rocks, then went to sit in the car because it had started raining.
On a trip to see some rhinos, he asked local ranger Ian about Cecil Rhodes — the British diamond tycoon who founded Rhodesia, the country that became Zimbabwe. Ian, it’s safe to say, was a fan . . . unlike Romesh’s guide, Chipo, who launched into a passionate attack on colonialism.
Romesh made no contribution, then concluded that political debate was futile because people never changed their minds.
the truly depressing thing isn’t just how useless he is as a tV presenter — it’s that he used to be a teacher. heaven help anyone who relied on him for an education.
the pupils on Poldark (BBC1) were better off — they might be destined for short, gruelling lives as tin miners, but at least they’ve got Morwenna (ellise Chappell) to read them stories.
Demelza (eleanor tomlinson) is keen to start a village school. She wouldn’t be so idealistic if she knew that even a university education can’t improve an intellect determined to remain at the level of toilet humour.
this series is floundering in a sea of piety, with righteous speeches about racism and the oppression of workers. It’s historically inaccurate and, much worse, it’s boring.
Once it was a throbbing romance, but the carnal excitement ended with the death of elizabeth (heida Reed). that’s the problem with a love triangle: take away one of the points and you’re left with a flat line.
this week, a dark subplot about mental illness saw George Warleggan ( Jack Farthing) covered in blisters and leeches. not the sort of shirtless scene Poldark is renowned for.