Saturday, 22 November 2008

Oceans Outrage: viewers are "patronised" and "pissed off" by the new mega series!

A recent glance at one of my favourite blogs The Nature Watch showed that some bloggers are overwhelmingly unhappy with the BBC's latest mega-series Oceans.

Described as "a classy documentary" by the Sunday Telegraph, "a shimmering series" by The Sun and "top aqua totty!" by Radio 4, Oceans promised to take us on an exploration of "some of the planet's most challenging environments" following "intrepid adventurers", but after reading the comments on the Nature Watch's spiel you might not be so sure!

Former newspaper journalist blogger Lunartalks gives a wholeheartedly different view of the series. Lunartalks reviews the series with a refreshingly colloquial yet intelligent and rigidly honest tone and I'd thoroughly recommend giving it a read! From the viewpoint of one with a "passionate" love of the Yorkshire coastline it would appear that the BBC has seriously wronged locals by hollywoodising their home environments with patronising and irrelevant stories. Lunartalks notes that his home-stretch of coast is malresearched; its gripping heritage of "James Cook, villages sliding into the sea on storm blasted nights, smuggling, ...the first German plane shot down over Britain... sunken u-boats,... Jurassic fossils, Jack Lammiman,...Dracula, ... Viking invasion, ... tales that old fisherman can tell of rowing off a lee shore for hours until their bones showed through their palms" and many many more, all neglected in the series.

And it isn't just a single blogger insulted by the "self loving" presenters: Karen James (beagle blogger), is furious at the hypocrisy of "presenters trying to pose adventurously on the bow of a big fat diesel spewing thing cruising at top speed across the waves" whilst preaching about climate change; Kevin Z (marine researcher) labels it an indicator of the BBC's "decline in quality"; and nature forums aren't much better. Birdforum reader ghostrider objects to the "dumbed-down" information, the use of the phrase "ground-breaking photography" to describe "fishing for squid and then diving with a camera" and the progression towards "I'm a Celebrity diver, get me on camera"! Adey Baker notes that "this type of programme (does) try to make heroes out of people doing their job rather than the results of that job" and deals too much with "all the problems of the members of the group" rather than "creatures of the deep".We all know reality TV is a hit but should we have to expect it from the blue-chip-famous BBC natural history unit?
When Lunartalks describes "the gender-balanced, UK ethnically selected team of presenters", I can't help but sense a line-up for Big Brother, and even internet writers who enjoyed the series have noted that having "super good looking people in it..helped".

On the other side of the coin Peewit (forum writer) found the presentation "heart-felt" and "insightful" and commends the 'adventurers' for "risking their lives...for filming purposes"; and as with almost any BBC NHU output there are tv reviewers suggesting that "if your sea legs are steady and strong, (Oceans) is your idea of viewing bliss".

All-in-all opinions are obviously personal and you should foster some of your own by watching Oceans online. From my viewpoint the reality-tv style of programming which we are seeing more and more is not attractive when thrust into the natural history world. For example Pacific Abyss is a disgustingly over-sensational programme described rightly by The Mirror as "abyssmal"(!)
Anna Lowman (TV scoop writer) notes that this style of programming has become "a trend ever since Planet Earth started having those ten "making of" minutes at the end of the programme" and believes it "takes the magic away".
I must finish with her eloquent statement that these programmes risk "trying to be too many things to too many people - extreme sports junkies, environmentalists, history lovers, wildlife enthusiasts - and in doing so, don't really satisfy any of their intended audiences."

Related posts: Wild:Killer Whales in the UK?, Pushing it too far..., Life in Cold Blood faking it


lunartalks said...

Thanks for linking to my review. I was rather cross, but only because I expect better.

And on the 'related posts' I have twice seen killer whales in UK waters, on both occasions within 3 miles of the shore.

Anonymous said...

Well done Sam

too many times we hear Billy Oddity naming birds and giving human characteristics and emotions to animals who are basically struggling to survive

that is all a part of debasing the essence of broadcasting - whether it be educational - or news - for the sake of 'entertainment'

the next step is to have these high paid publicly funded presenters making obscene phone calls - squeaking down transmitters to to those same creatures - all justified for entertainment - but in fact pissing off those people working hard and having to pay a licence fee under duress

maybe this sort of debasing of the BBC will lead to an end of the licence fee?

Karen James said...

I'm really worried that broadcasters are beginning to think that in any documentary the human story must always be given precedence over the other messages, else the viewers won't be interested. I just don't believe that's true. While it is important to depict 'real scientists' doing 'real science' that shouldn't be done at the expense of the subject itself. What, is this wonder-filled world not interesting enough?

Anonymous said...

TV Scoop has more outcry from webloggers around the world.
Read more here.

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