We’ve watched much less TV at home over the last couple of weeks as we’ve been away a fair amount. One of the series we finished relatively recently was Lost Land of the Tiger which I found rather disappointing. The basic premise was that the best way to save tigers in the wild is to establish a conservation zone along the Himalayas which should allow the remaining small pockets of tigers in that region to link up and become a sustainable population. The snag was that no-one knew if there were any tigers right in the middle of this region, in Bhutan. So a team of scientists and BBC wildlife documentary makers (photographers & so on) went to Bhutan to see if they could find signs of tigers. And to do a survey of the general ecological health of the Bhutanese countryside for the Bhutanese government.
What I would’ve liked to see was lots of footage of wildlife (and hopefully tigers). What we got was lots of footage of people looking for/at wildlife (and hopefully tigers). And a really really obvious and somewhat clunky narrative structure – I felt it was far too obvious that there were bits being hammed up for the cameras to “make a good story”. All that aside what we did get to see of the actual wildlife was pretty cool. They did find tigers, as well as other big cats. And there was also the surprise discovery that tigers can live at much higher altitudes than previously thought, which means that the potential conservation zone can include more territory (and territory that’s less interesting to humans, too). Because of the clunky narrative structure it was clear from the beginning of episode 1 that this was going to be the case, and we had to wait till the end of episode 3 for the evidence (clumsy foreshadowing, they had it). But it was still pretty cool to see.
I wouldn’t recommend it particularly, but J liked it more than I did I think.
One of the things that J’s parents had recorded for him from the Discovery Channel (which we don’t have at home) for us to watch while we visited was a series called Out of Egypt (link to a press release for it as I couldn’t find a programme homepage). This series was presented by Kara Cooney, an Egyptologist, and it was a comparison of various widespread human cultural characteristics across a wide sweep of ancient cultures. She started each episode with something in ancient Egyptian culture and then looked at how other civilisations did this same thing. We managed to watch the last third of episode 3, then episodes 4-6, then 1-2 (due to how the Sky box had filed them in its recordings) – which wasn’t ideal but they did work well as standalone episodes too.
She covered quite a wide range of subjects. For instance one episode (the first I think) looked at urban living and how it arose in different places from the truly ancient cities of the Middle East to more recent but still ancient cities in South America. She looked the various ways society changes with urban living, both good and bad. Other episodes looked at things like how sacred violence shows up in many different cultures & societies – she went from the Egyptian imagery of the Pharaoh smiting his enemies to the Salem witch trials and the Spanish Inquisition, via the Aztecs, and looked at how similar or dissimilar the forces shaping this ritual or religious use of violence were.
I really liked this series. You don’t often see series that cover such a wide subject – this did a good job of looking at a variety of different cultures and asking both how we are all the same despite our different cultures, and how our cultures have shaped us into different people. And astonishingly for a Discovery channel series it didn’t set out to “solve the mystery” or to provide a definitive answer to some question, instead it was a thoughtful overview of a complicated subject.
Other TV we’ve watched recently:
Episode 2 of Britain’s Great War – Jeremy Paxman looking at what happened in Britain during WWI.
Episode 1 of Talk to the Animals – Lucy Cooke does a survey of animal communication.
Bolsover Castle – an episode of the Secret Knowledge series, this one presented by Lucy Worsley. She talked about the castle’s first owners & builders, and the meanings of the decor & architecture. Only Worsley would match her gloves to the details on the castle 😉 A tad amateur in feel (I think this series often is), but rather good.
Also watched a couple of Egypt documentaries we’d seen before – Egypt’s Mystery Chamber (I have a mini-review of it here), and episode 1 of Egypt’s Golden Empire which I didn’t write a proper review of before either.