Staged sequences makes Hidden Kingdoms hard to watch | Television & radio |

Green room, green screen.
Green room, green screen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heard a discussion about this on Radio 4’s The Media Show this week (download the podcast). It seems outrageous to me that the BBC are “dramatising” factual programmes for “narrative or emotional impact” – without shame. That they were almost certainly doing this kind of thing in the past, goes without saying. What gets to me here is the corrupt morality. In the past, they’d have tried to keep this kind of thing secret, because of shame and embarrassment. Now they don’t appear to know what shame and embarrassment is.

It’s cheap TV, it’s dumbed-down TV, and it’s TV aimed not at the core audience for wildlife documentaries, but at that other, nebulous, “broader” audience, of people who aren’t interested in wildlife documentaries – unless they have drama, narrative, and emotional impact. Pandering, in other words. And you know what? I bet they still won’t watch.

Viewers are warned in advance, though, that some sequences have been dramatised for narrative or emotional impact, with some animals filmed in captivity or in the studio. Publicity material relating to the series further explains that, in order to present the perspective of the tiny protagonist in each scene, \”stages\” or tableaux have sometimes been digitally created around the genuine footage of the animals and insects.

This attempt at being transparent about the process was clearly intended to pre-empt a repeat of controversies about \”faked\” wildlife footage in previous series, even including some by Attenborough. However, admitting to heavy drinking does not prevent people concluding that you are an alcoholic and the controversy has simply happened anyway, with the spin that the BBC has \”confessed\” to fakery.

via BBC telling us it staged sequences makes Hidden Kingdoms hard to watch | Television & radio |

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Comic Sans


This is a response/homage to the brilliant Helvetica documentary by two video production students. This is a perfect storm of media studies goodness. You can admire their straightforward documentary filmmaking technique as well as harken to the content and subject of the film.

Black Power Salute


I heartily concur with the sentiments in this review of the Black Power Salute documentary in BBC4 last night. It was a straightforward talking-heads-with-archive-footage style documentary (expository mode), and – as is so often the case – it was a perfect example of why we don’t necessarily need wacky presenter/participators, edgy camera work, or low-rent actors dramatising scenes from history. Or graphics! Catch the documentary on iPlayer until 17 July.

The 1968 Olympics are the first I remember, and I will never forget the sight of those guys on the podium with their fists in the air. This was at the time the most successful US team ever, and the most radical. 1968 was the year of revolution, the era of the Paris protests, the assassinations of Kennedy and King, the Prague Spring, the Tet Offensive, Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, student protests against the Viet Nam war, and “Street Fighting Man.”

(White) America was terrified of the Black Power movement. Charles Manson’s murderous campaign was based around his belief that there would be an apocalyptic war (“Helter Skelter”) between blacks and whites in America. He tried to hurry it along by murdering middle-class white people and making it look as if black radicals were responsible. The students who competed in the Mexico Olympics on the US team were individuals who had had their consciousness raised. Their protests were powerful and effective, and all the more so (as the Guardian piece says) because they were on live TV.

I don’t really want to watch this summer’s Olympics, not for the sport (or the sponsorship), but I wouldn’t want to miss anything as powerful as this, something that we might still be talking about in 40 years.

The Guardian ask for your most memorable live TV events. Mine are:

1. Mexico Olympics – Black Power Salute

2. Apollo 11 – Moon landing

3. Apollo 13 – abort! Abort!

4. 1973 World Cup qualifying – England v Poland (Abort!)

5. The second plane hitting the second tower on Sept 11 2001

p.s. 1968 was also of course the year of The White Album, Apple Records, and “Hey Jude.” The double-A-side companion to “Hey Jude” was “Revolution.” The latter was very much John Lennon at his best – an instant musical response to the world around him.