I didn’t used to like wildlife documentaries until I gave Planet Earth a go when it was first shown on the BBC a number of years ago.
In fact, when it was suggested that we watch it, I scoffed with derision, but ended up glued to the screen.
So when I heard that David Attenborough was doing a new wildlife show about Africa, I earmarked it as a show to watch.
And I’m glad I did.
This isn’t going to be a long-winded, 1,500 word piece going into in-depth analysis about the show, because it doesn’t need to be.
Africa is worth your time for a number of reasons.
The Camera Work
A lot of work goes into making a show like this, and a combination of top quality high-definition picture, extensive location work from enthusiastic professionals and new technology every time Attenborough presents one of these shows (this time it’s ground-breaking night vision cameras that managed to show rhinos hanging out by some water) makes it almost as much of a work of art as it is a documentary about animals.
The cameramen manage to capture some genuinely breathtaking sights, as well as some amusing ones. The sight of the (pictured) squirrel dropping its nut and running off was just fantastic comedy.
While there’s a cynical argument that some of the stuff that happens in these shows is…not so much staged but engineered or pieced together in a certain way to make things more interesting, what makes these wildlife documentaries better than the average one is that it’s presented as a series of short stories.
It’s not just a narrator lecturing us about an animal, but rather it presents each one in a storyline, whether it’s the ostriches going to the waterhole along with all the ‘nice’ animals before the evil ones turn up, the giraffes having a fight or the baby leopard going for its first kill.
Yes, you learn (for example, I learned that a drongo is a bird, not just an Australian insult) but you are learning while being entertained.
A Presenter Who Isn’t Too Much
There’s a reason that David Attenborough is one of the most well-known and mimicked presenters anywhere in the world; it’s because he’s very good at his job. He knows his stuff and is full of enthusiasm.
But compare this to Andrew Marr’s History of the World and you’ll see a big difference.
Attenborough appears once at the start, and narrates over what we see. The animals are the stars and the cameramen also get a chance to shine at the end, but Attenborough just talks over it.
Andrew Marr’s documentaries are first and foremost about himself. He flies to every location to walk down a street for seven seconds, do a terrible impression of someone and generally hog the screen with his wiry body and unsettling face. He also has his own name in the title, which says it all.
So Watch It…
So I urge you to check out Africa. If you’ve not seen it, it’s on the iPlayer and it’s only the first episode of six.
I guarantee you’ll be entertained…and yet also appalled by the sight of a rhinoceros trying and failing to have sex.