Wednesday’s TV: ‘Oceans’ is a young successor trying to fill the steel-capped man-boots of ‘Blue Planet’

November 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

OCEANS – SEA OF CORTEZ, BBC2, Wednesday 12th November, 8pm Alert me

When Hollywood finally get round to making the movie of my life, I want it to be narrated by Sir David Attenborough (with Morgan Freeman coming in a close second). I don’t say this out of some desire to express one of my many unrealistic dreams or as a petulant narcissistic whim either. I do so to highlight David Attenborough’s angelic power to make people care. Even if it is about some obscure limpet clinging to a rock on the Mexican coast. Or, say, me.

He could turn even the most city-minded technophiles plugged this side of the Matrix into nature lovers. And why? His voice. Let’s face it, the man could serenade a hungry lion.

So, what’s the first thing I noticed about BBC’s self-proclaimed “ground-breaking? series Oceans? David Attenborough’s not in it. In his place are an intrepid band that includes explorer Paul Rose (a hybrid mix of Indiana Jones and Steve Irwin), environmentalist Phillipe Cousteau (grandson of the famous Jacques), marine biologist/oceanographer Tooni Mahto and maritime archaeologist Dr Lucy Blue. The scooby gang of the deep.

This episode charts their progress through the Sea of Cortez, a gulf between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico formed from tectonic activity.

There is the usual myriad of stunning how-the-f*ck-did-they-film-that? footage: dolphins so close you can see the sun glinting off their skin; an underwater borealis of luminous Humboldt squids; shimmering schools of fish churning in unison, and, perhaps most stunning of all, shots of Sperm Whales, which two of the team actually swim with.

And yet, every so often, the team does something that undermines the grandeur of the surroundings they’re so desperately trying to celebrate. One scene in particular highlights this point: two of them dive into the Sea of Cortez and use one of the hydrothermal vents on the sea floor to boil eggs. That’s right. To boil eggs. “We’re cooking on the sea floor,? one of them remarks, “it’s not right.? No. It isn’t. Especially when we’re forking out for a f*cking TV licence. Besides, I can see the vigorous heat-shimmers, thanks. I think I have a pretty good idea that it’s hot without a pointless demonstration.

Oceans took a year to film and, in scope at least, it is hard not to be impressed (through the course of the series they travel to, amongst others, the Arctic, Indian and Mediterranean). But the truth is Blue Planet did it bigger and better. I’m not saying that all nature shows need to have David Attenborough at the helm but they need to do is draw you in, make you feel like you are part of an amazing story, a progression. And, somehow, I just didn’t get that with Oceans.

Ultimately, what Oceans actually feels like is a young successor trying to fill the steel-capped man-boots of Blue Planet; the powerful King’s weak (possibly homosexual?) son struggling against the weight of expectation.

By Alejandro Ahmadi-Gestoso