TV blog: Blue Planet Live

Benjie Goodhart / 22 March 2019

Chris Packham, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall take up their stations at points across the globe to show us in real time what is happening in our oceans.

Blue Planet Live 1/4, Sunday 24th March, 8pm, BBC One

Life used to be simple. Or, at least, TV did. If a series was starting on a Sunday, you could guarantee episode two would be the following Sunday, and episode three the Sunday after that. I mean, there was a very good chance it would be unutterable tripe, quite conceivably presented by Jim Davidson, but at least you knew when the tripe was actually on. Then someone had the bright idea of putting a series on over consecutive nights. It was a bit odd, and was occasionally difficult to commit to staying in for so many nights in a row. But as a concept, it was graspable. But now TV scheduling has just gone to pot. For example, this new four-part live series about the world’s marine life is being screened on Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday again. Where is the logic? Where is the pattern?

Anyway, if you can remember to actually watch it, this looks like being a cracking series, the kind of thing the BBC does particularly well. It sees Chris Packham, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall dotted around the globe, showing us in real time what is happening in the watery blue yonder. It’s like if Springwatch won the lottery, packed its Speedos and went on the holiday of a lifetime.

Obviously, it being live, there is nothing to see at present, but there are a few things you can pretty much guarantee about the series. It will contain some delightfully bad jokes by Packham, and Backshall will, as ever, come across as an enthusiastic Labrador puppy who has somehow adopted human form. And you don’t need a degree in marine biology to guess that the answer to the question the show is posing, “How is marine life coping in the face of increasing environmental pressure” is unlikely to be “absolutely swimmingly, thanks.” I mean, technically, it is coping swimmingly, but you get the idea.

Still, it can’t all be doom and gloom. The challenge these programmes face is to engage its audience with a concerning subject matter as opposed to switching them off with doom-laden tales of global catastrophe. Yes, we know things are going spectacularly nipples north in marine terms, but can you reward us with the occasional look at a baby turtle? Pleeeease?

The first episode is going to celebrate the amazing and diverse wildlife living in the seas around us. Well, not around us in the UK, exactly, seeing as the teams are in Mexico, the Bahamas and Australia. Mind you, you can see why they might opt for spectacular coral reefs, and tiger sharks swimming around tropical seas, as opposed to showing a rusting shopping trolley and a crushed can of Tenants Extra nestling in the subaquatic gloom of a North Sea fishing port.

Chris is going to team up with scientists at the world’s biggest whale nursery in Mexico, where 300 mothers and calves are about to stop by for a visit. Quite why the whales are accompanied by baby cows is anyone’s guess, but there it is. Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, Steve will be swimming with enormous predators, including Tiger sharks “in shark heaven”. Personally, I think I’d be worried about going to human heaven. Actually, I’d be even more worried about NOT going to human heaven. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “Blessed be the TV critics.”

Liz is down under, at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef, where scientists are trying to ensure the reef’s survival. We’re straying into gloomy territory here, but thankfully, there are quite literally some baby turtles on a nearby island that should just have hatched. So that’s alright then. Just look at the baby turtles, everyone. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 23rd March

All Round to Mrs Browns 1/6, 9:15pm, BBC One: Brendan O’Carroll’s comic creation is either the funniest thing since Fawlty Towers or the funniest thing since stubbing your toe on a brick. Either way, popular is popular, and Ma Brown returns tonight with her chat show, with guests in this series opener including Teri Hatcher, Anna Friel, Rob Beckett and Chris Kamara.

The Royal Family at War 1/2, 9:50pm, Channel 5: One hour and 15 minutes of ‘scandalous love affairs, bitter disputes and royal rifts,’ as Channel 5’s unseemly obsession with the grubbier aspects of royal history continues unabated. Tonight sees us raking over the familiar feuds between Charles and Di, and Wallis Simpson and the Queen Mother. For good measure, they’re also chucking about idle speculation regarding Meghan and Kate.

Sunday 24th March

Britain’s Favourite Crisps, 8pm, Channel 5: *Sigh*

If you love crisps, feast on a nostalgic selection of crisp facts

Victoria 1/8, 9pm, ITV: Jenna Coleman returns as the redoubtable queen, resuming events in 1848. This series features John Sessions as Lord John Russell, and Laurence Fox as Lord Palmerston.

Monday 25th March

Live International Football, 7pm, ITV: Seeing as England are away to Montenegro, I’m sure you’re all aware that they’ll be playing at the Podgorica City Stadium. Possibly one for the more dedicated England follower.

Tuesday 26th March

Road to Brexit, 10pm, BBC Two: Yes, it’s the b-word again. Matt Berry and writing partner Arthur Mathews give their slightly surreal take on the political events leading up to Brexit, though whether anything can match what really happened in surrealist stakes remains to be seen.

Thursday 28th March

Babes in the Wood, 9pm, ITV: Sir Trevor McDonald presents the story of how Brighton police brought a child killer to justice 32 years after the 1986 murder of two nine-year-old girls.

Manhunt: Catch Me If You Can 1/3, 9pm, Channel 5: Following the ten-strong tactical unit from Kent dedicated to hunting suspects on the run.

Friday 29th March

Frankie Boyle’s New World Order 1/7, BBC Two: Frankie Boyle and guests give their surreal take on the week’s news, although whether anything can match what really happened etc etc (see ‘Road to Brexit’ above).

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