Attenborough: 60 Years In The Wild – Review

BBC2, Friday 16th Nov, 9pm

David Attenborough takes a personal tour through 60 years of making nature documentaries in this three part series. In this, the first episode, Attenborough looks back at some of his favourite encounters with all creatures great and small (and green stuff too) and how technical innovation in photography over the decades have aided in the development of wildlife filming.

If you ask me, the only nature documentary worth watching is one with Dave in it. Yes I’m going to call him Dave. His instantly recognisable voice provides gravitas with an infectious enthusiasm that is hard to resist, and even this – a documentary on documentaries for goodness sake – is in no way boring. Not excessively exciting, but yes, definitely not boring

Don’t be expecting animals making babies in every shot or anything like that, but Dave leads us through 60 years of wildlife filming advancement with many a quaint chuckle. And some sexy show motion shots too of course. Note the bat anecdote where Dave remarks upon the amazing way that bats won’t fly into each other or him before a bat promptly flies into his face. Maybe it was just a stupid bat? And then there’s the always funny toilet flower story…

Despite the fact that most of us are reasonably familiar with the basic innovations in filming as they are seen on everything from Traffic Cops (thermal imagining and airborne steady cameras) to Casualty (fibre optics up peoples bottoms etc), it is very interesting to see the before and after effects on wildlife filming. For example, a very young black and white Dave has to describe the colour of a chameleon, and we also see him desperately running after animals in the dark with a torch.

This series is pretty much a way of trying to make use of old nature footage and make Dave look epic. Well it worked. Dave braves the embarrassment that is watching and broadcasting really old footage of your posh younger self wearing groovy flared jeans, and we get to see the best bits of 60 years of spiffing nature documentaries rolled into a nice 3 hour series. Also, it’s always great to see national treasures pissing of sexually charged animals: in this case a hover fly falls in love with a pea.

Julia Paynton