Television / Survival (ITV)
Saturday 15 July 1995
The problem with seeking congruity between the personalities of man and other mammals is that it doesn't work. Survival (ITV) pitched its film as a chance for the hog to strut a catwalk too often trodden by more sleekly designed models. This was its chance to, if you will, hog the limelight. "What it lacks in looks," intoned Hywell Bennett, "it makes up for in character." Warthogs all over the bush will doubtless be faxing Anglia to give thanks for this overdue acknowledgement of their qualities.
No question about it, the warthog is the last word in preternatural deformity. The four warts on the male face are hideous, the tusks curl upwards in Baroque excess and the dashing mane looks like a malevolent joke played by God on a creature with so little cause for vanity. In the family we met, three generations of females gave birth together: dominant males like to put their seed about a bit, so the problem could be the result of inbreeding. If your great-grandmother was also your aunt, you'd probably be plastered with warts too. There's no getting away from the looks issue - if you're human. But as man plays no part in a hog's life, his aesthetic judgement seems utterly irrelevant. Leopards and jackals, who do play a part, probably do not prey on hogs as a punishment for being ugly as sin. They just like the taste.
The imposition of human values on an animal is the sort of low-brow activity you expect from ITV. The words of the script ridiculously insisted that the warthog is a star, while the pictures proved otherwise. Pro rata, we spent more time with one magnificent leopard than any hog. We took time out to watch the miraculous birth of a giraffe, and a thunderous tussle between a hippo and a buffalo. Neither are big events in a hog's life, but both are gifts to an aesthetically hungry film-maker.
The film couldn't help but leak some information, and Barbara Tyack's photography was never less than stunning. You got a rough idea of what it's like to be a warthog for a year. The riddle of its lookalike was solved too: thrusting, snouty mouth, piggy eyes set poles apart, slick quiff to compensate. There's only one cabinet minister of whom it can safely be said: nice hair, shame about the face.
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