Monkey Planet was a three part series presented by George McGavin about primates – monkeys, apes and lemurs. The first episode in was primarily a survey of just how wide-ranging and varied a group the primates are. The other two looked at aspects of primate behaviour that we tend to think of as particularly human, and showed both how it’s actually primate-wide and more varied than our narrow perspective suggests. The second episode concentrated on social interactions – like social hierarchies, family arrangements, maintaining friendships. And the third episode was focussed on intelligence and learning. That had the most startling piece of footage – a chimpanzee who lives in Iowa in a research institute who was shown going on a picnic with one of the scientists and making a campfire and toasting marshmallows on it. It shouldn’t be startling – I know chimpanzees are intelligent and very closely related to humans (we could be considered a third chimpanzee species). But somehow making a fire to toast marshmallows on was more human-ish than I was expecting.
This was a fun series to watch, even if I haven’t written much – its strength was in the footage of all the different primates being primates (which is hard to write about but good to watch).
Another series we finished watching this week was Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places. This covered a lot of the same sort of territory as the recent Neil Oliver series, Sacred Wonders of Britain (post) but where the Oliver series organised things chronologically this one organised them thematically. The six half-hour episodes covered things like “Water” or “Caves” and so on. It was based on someone’s book, but not presented by the author. I’m not sure I was all that keen on the actual presenter – Ifor ap Glyn – whose schtick seemed to be that at the start of the episode he tried to come across as completely without knowledge on the subject, then by the end of the half hour he’d “learnt why these places are so important”. And it wasn’t quite believable either at the start or the end. One thing he was very good at, however, was telling the associated stories for places with the right sense of awareness of the ridiculous nature of them!
A bit shallow, but actually did rather well as a contrasting sort of programme to watch after something more weighty (like The First World War).
Other TV watched this week:
Episode 8 of The First World War – a 10 part series covering the whole of the war.
Episode 1 of How to Get Ahead – series about court life during a three different historical periods.
Episode 1 of Precision: The Measure of All Things – series about measurement and the history of measurement.