Autumnwatch is so British it might as well be smashing up a Belgian piazza, says Mark Lewis
It’s a programme so parochial it makes you want to turn off your TV*, drink a pint of regional bitter in your local pub, and have a bit of a cry over a 1st class postage stamp.
It has that weirdly British combination of impossible ambition and a cosy lack of any at all. Making it live flies so far up the nose of every notion of good natural history programming procedure that it is almost laughably industrious. But then they front it with a man wearing a fleece.
And then make that man Bill Oddie.
Autumnwatch (Monday, BBC2, 8pm) is dripping in British peculiarity. Only in Britain could we imagine that we could somehow sex up the natural history format by inserting the interminably geriatric twittering of man who was incomprehensibly popular 40 years ago. Only in Britain would his meandering verbal links, which invariably wander into the next segment, be considered comforting. And only in Britain would a barn in Brownsea Island in Dorset truly be considered “glamorous”.
This is primetime telly. And yet in one segment, Oddie is allowed to take his camera down to Hampstead Heath to film ducklings frolicking on his local pond. Had it been in Italy, a man in a sparkling suite would have been hiding in the pond on Hampstead Heath filming Bill Oddie being fellated by a dancing girl.
But this is not a programme which will be sold overseas. The only thing likely to be cheered in the United States are the forcefully anthropomorphic reminders of how much tougher the North American grey squirrel is than the rather more effete British red.
The sense of British inferiority is so palpable that Oddie might as well stop stumbling through presenting a live nature programme and start comparing his love making skills with Giacomo Casanova.
Even the brief flicker of excitement at the hint of ‘good ol’ British’ bedroom deviance is quickly extinguished when we discover that “rutting stags” is something to do with fighting deer. Admittedly the rutting stags proved to be a fairly compelling, dramatic piece of television.
But only by British standards. Had it been in America, the stags would have been shooting one another with big fucking laser beams.
*Sentence could equally stop here