April 2011

 

Attenborough is THE MAN!

MFTApr11-2   I’m not sure if Sir David Attenborough is quite the institution in America as he is in Australia and presumably Britain. I first became aware of him when the magnificent series Life on Earth premiered in 1979. Can it really be so long ago?  I’d never seen a wildlife documentary with such epic sweep yet fascinating depth. Who can forget the scenes with Sir David and the mountain gorillas? Still amongst the best TV I’ve ever seen. Even more amazing, I heard DA interviewed many years later about that footage and he said that basically all they got were outtakes because of a technical problem with the camera.

MFTApr11-1After that, anything with Sir David’s name attached was a guarantee of an outstanding viewing experience. After Life on Earth, we got The Living Planet five years later. Clearly natural history masterpieces aren’t built in a day! This is the series where we saw that astonishing but harrowing footage of the killer whales hunting baby seals and after they caught them, playing with them like a cat plays with a mouse.

MFTApr11-5After that, we were lucky enough to see a plethora of wonderful BBC nature series, all with the Attenborough imprimatur. The Private Life of Plants. The Blue Planet. The Trials of Life. TThe Life of Mammals.  Life in the Undergrowth. Life in the Freezer. I could go on! All feature scenes that steal your breath away with wonder.

MFTApr11-4One of my particular favorites is The Life of Birds, perhaps because birds are such a pleasure of living on the Sunshine Coast where I am now. I’ve always remembered the beautiful footage of wandering albatross, so much so that it became a life’s ambition to see albatross, something I achieved on my New Zealand cruise in 2010. Here’s a short extract from those magical moments on YouTube.

MFTApr11-3Just finished on ABC TV here in Australia, we had what has been announced as Sir David’s last project, First Life, an exploration of how life on Earth began. It’s the same compelling mixture of brilliant storytelling and fascinating science as all the others. What struck me forcibly when I was watching it is that Sir David has lost none of his zest for exploring and explaining the wonders of the natural world. It’s that enthusiasm and never-ending curiosity that lie at the heart of why these series are such marvellous television. DA can make the slimiest, erkiest worm fascinating and the events of its squirming, squishy life as suspenseful and dramatic as anything you’ll see on HBO.

Like most people, I watch a lot of TV but the series that stand out as unforgettable are fairly rare. These BBC wildlife documentaries certainly do. Sir David, thank you for all those hours of pure viewing pleasure and for making me see the world through fresh eyes.