Last Night's TV: Springwatch High Seas with Gordon Buchanan, BBC2
Location Location Location, Channel 4
All at Sea, ITV1
Friday 21 May 2010
There's something comforting about Springwatch, isn't there? While ITV recruits armies of minor-league slebs to navigate their coastlines (on which, more to follow), the BBC is content to give us Gordon Buchanan in Springwatch High Seas. And what a wise move it was to. He was an absolute joy: charming, irresistibly enthusiastic, not to mention genuinely knowledgeable on all the things that matter – in this instance, mackerel and killer whales. He was trying to find the latter, by following the former, all while sticking to the British coast: yes, killer whales in Britain! It was all terribly exciting.
British whales don't, unfortunately for Gordon, come out very often. He spent much of the time on the mackerel-fishing trawler he'd boarded waiting around, camera on shoulder, starting at false alarms. It was hard not to feel his disappointment when one outing after another revealed nothing, and equally hard not to share his enthusiasm when things started to go right. When the whales did finally appear, it was in spectacular fashion, almost a hundred of them, spyhopping on the water's surface to nab a peak of the boat. They were delightful to watch, though rather less so if you had mackerel on your mind. When the fishermen reeled in their nets, they were confronted with a bloody mess of ruined catches.
It was not just whales that we got, mind: there were basking sharks, too, when Gordon visited his home island of Mull. They were huge, and properly frightening to look at, though Gordon insisted they eat nothing but plankton. And there were dolphins and ganets and puffins and sand eels and guillemots. And facts! Lots of facts. Like: did you know that puffins have serrated beaks so that they can store multiple eels on them when they're out fishing? And that baby guillemots are known as "jumplings" because of the way they launch themselves off cliffs? Maybe you did. I didn't, because bird trivia's not my usual kind of thing. But Springwatch is – and that's what makes it so special.
Speaking of TV comforts: Location Location Location is still going! How long has it been now? OK, I'll stop pretending I haven't just googled it. It's nine years, to the month. That's pretty impressive, by anyone's standards, though it's not hard to see why it has done so well. It's just always the same: you can tune in, and tune out, and leave a few years in between, and you still don't feel out of the loop. True, things got a little awkward for a patch last year, what with all that, you know, negative equity, and negativity, and stuff. Familiarity rather dented Phil and Kirstie's charm, too. Phil, we learned, wasn't terribly successful in the property market himself; in fact, his firm went bust, much to the delight of the waiting media. And Kirstie's an adviser to David Cameron. Which, of course, there's nothing wrong with, except...
Never mind: they are back, now, anyway, and last night they were lending a helping hand (if that's what adding a television crew and two bickering estate agents entails) to two house-hunting couples: Richard and Helen Francis, who have quite a lot of money, and Graham and Nina Walker, who don't. Richard and Helen were looking for a place in the middle of the Hale footballers' belt, but only really had enough money to buy somewhere on the outskirts. Graham and Nina just wanted to get a house. Nina, especially, and she seemed to make all the decisions. In the end, neither couple bought their properties, but all ended well when they found alternatives. So, nothing out of the ordinary: just Kirstie and Phil, nine years older, a little less pristine, but still there, plugging away. If you tuned out for the recession, you might want to tune back in. Well, it's better than All at Sea anyway.
All at Sea is very odd indeed. It's the second week of the series, but I hadn't seen last week and so had no idea of what, exactly, to expect. To be honest, watching it didn't help much: it's still not clear what the whole thing is all about. Two teams of minor celebrities (if that's the word) board a different pair of contrasting ships each week, as they sail from Cornwall to Kent for no apparent reason. All right for them, but what about us? Where's the purpose? The excitement? The reason to tune in next week? If you know, drop me an email. In the meantime, here's what happened: last week, Bradley Walsh, Rosemary Shrager and Mark Durden-Smith got an old fishing trawler, and Richard Madeley, Dawn Porter and Nick Hancock a posh yacht, so this time their fortunes were reversed, with Shrager et al aboard a yacht, and team Madeley chartering an enormous, pirate-esque working ship. The whole thing felt a bit like spying on a holiday, and in many ways we were. Aside from a bit of rope-tugging, our celebrities weren't required to do anything except enjoy themselves, a mildly amusing spectacle for the first five minutes, but a little grating for the remaining 55. Madeley and co went camping with some scouts, Shrager barked cooking instructions at everybody else. The not-exactly-remarkable highlight came when she sailed her team into the line of fire of the Royal Artillery. Was it too much to hope that they got shot? I'm afraid so. Shrager managed her only bit of proper navigation in the whole programme and steered them clear. So, yes: camping, bullets, and a rather gratuitous shot of Richard Madeley's bottom. I'm not sure we need a repeat performance.
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