Last Night's TV: The ice man cometh and melts the heart

Polar Bear Week With Nigel Marven, Five; Live At The Apollo, BBC1

An infant polar bear went up to his mother and said, "Mummy, am I 100 per cent polar bear?" She said, "Of course you are, darling." The little polar bear walked away, looking unconvinced. He went to his father and asked the same question. "Daddy, am I 100 per cent polar bear?" His father smiled and said, "Son, your mother is a pure-bred polar bear, and I am a pure-bred polar bear, so yes, you are 100 per cent polar bear. Why on earth do you ask?" And the young polar bear said, "Because, to be honest, I'm bloody freezing out here."

To appreciate that joke it helps either to be a child of about eight years, or to be an adult after about eight pints, but it swam determinedly into my mind during the first programme in Polar Bear Week with Nigel Marven. Our genial host was in Canada, in temperatures of 35 degrees below zero, which is the temperature at which boiling water, if thrown into the air, freezes before it hits the ground. We knew this because Nigel demonstrated it, eliciting a "wow!" from both my sons. If you can get children to say "wow!" at this time of year, then you're OK, in my book.

Although David Attenborough popped up on the valedictory Parkinson on Sunday night and got ever so slightly shirty when Parky suggested that he might want to call it a day after his next series, there is sooner or later going to be a vacancy for the job of honorary uncle to the nation, nature-wise. I propose Nigel, not so much to stop Bill Oddie, but because he seems to offer the right kind of wide-eyed wonderment at the sight of an arctic fox catching a vole. My only concern is that his survival instincts don't seem to be as well-tuned as Attenborough's. "I just want to go over there and give them a big cuddle," he told the camera, indicating mummy polar bear and her two, doubtless freezing, cubs. He looked as though he really did, too. For a second it looked as though Polar Bear Week with Nigel Marven might, by today's programme, have to be re-styled "Polar Bear Week with What Remains of Nigel Marven".

Actually, the title is slightly misleading, since Nigel spends at least as much time telling us about arctic foxes, hares, owls and caribou as polar bears. And when there are no animals to enthuse about, he puts snowflakes under a microscope and gets similarly enthusiastic about those. In this respect he reminds me of a game warden I once met in South Africa. This guy drove us round at 5am looking for lions and elephants, but when there was no wildlife to engage him, he talked with singular eloquence about star constellations. He also looked, unlike Nigel, like a matinee idol. The women in the party were practically queuing up to have his babies, while the men weren't sure whether to admire or hate him. We were slightly heartened by his confession that on his one visit to London it had taken him two hours to get across Piccadilly Circus, but that only seemed to make him more attractive to the women.

Back to the Arctic, which, wherever Nigel went, was looking reassuringly cold. I'm always a bit worried when TV cameras take me to the Arctic, half-expecting to find folk sipping piña coladas on sun-loungers. Maybe I'm suffering from over-exposure to The Independent's front page. Anyway, Nigel didn't mention global warming even once. He didn't even tell us that polar bears are an endangered species. Maybe he felt it would spoil the mood. Or maybe he was simply burying his head in the snow.

Either way, I can't recommend the rest of Polar Bear Week highly enough. And I should also add, for those who like reading the credits, that the rostrum camera is operated by Ken Morse. I know I'm not the only one who has noticed his ubiquitousness down the years: the comedy show Big Train once had a sketch about a rostrum cameraman driven mad because he operated so utterly in the shadow of Ken Morse.

Little aperçus like that are the stuff of good comedy, and there were a few nice ones on Live at the Apollo, mostly delivered by a fine Glaswegian comedian called Frankie Boyle, who wondered, and I'm with him all the way, why train companies decided to dispense with simple toilet locks in favour of a complicated multiple choice push-button system, which leaves you sitting there praying that the door is not going to slide slowly open, unveiling you like a prize on a game show.

Anyway, this column will now end as it began, with a joke. A rather seasonal one, too. Boyle also asserted that the Scots can be a rather negative lot, and cited John Logie Baird, who, when people came up to congratulate him for inventing television, used to grumble, "Aye, but there's fuck all on!" Happy festive viewing, if you can find any.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary