Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There are bargains to be had

Last night I watched "Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor: The Link" on BBC-1. Four thoughts.
1. Fascinating though it was, the amount of actual content in this hour-long programme could have been got through in about ten minutes. The rest was taken up with shots of scientists looking through microscopes and those sudden zooms that are accompanied by "whoosh" noises.
2. This is the most complete fossil anyone's come across ever. It's 47,000,000 years old and they can still tell what was in its stomach.
3. A Norwegian museum bought it from a private collector for just $1,000,000. That's about the asking price of an Edwardian semi in suburban London.
4. I'm always amazed at how "reasonable" precious things can be.


  1. so the poster the guardian produced that's up next to my desk has all most people need to know on the subject :)

  2. Reminded me of David Mirchell's recent comment that our education system "gives you about 4 years worth of information ... but takes 12 years to do it".

  3. Truly fascinating stuff but the delivery caused much grumpy shouting at the TV from our sofa - Attenborough (a god in this house) may have written the script but it took the blunt pencil of some overpaid editor to turn it into the repetitive dumbed down diluted drivel that passes for documentary these days - tell us once, we'll remember, it's a feature of the evolved human brain - and, if a prog has 15 minutes of value, use that then fill the remaining time with Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny - watch the viewing figures soar - and don't get me started on fake "jeopardy" injections...

  4. Or Charlie Watts' comment that being with the Rolling Stones was something like 5 years playing and the rest of it was just hanging around

  5. We haven't had a TV for a couple of years now, prefferring to spend the money on lovefilm subscriptions and the occasional box set, so when i watched a couple of programs recently on the iplayer i found the amount of padding and filler made them almost unwatchable. "Now we're going to talk ab out face cream" - cue 10 minute montage of presenter leaving house, getting in car, walking down street, going into boots, browsing shelves of face cream....
    Like you say, 10 minutes of program crammed into an hour of time.

  6. I'm glad to know it's not just me who's noticed this. Horizon is another example; it used to be reasonably filling, but now is basically fluff. The few episodes I've watched over the past couple of years do, indeed, have only about 10 minutes worth of solid information in them.

    It's hard to imagine The Ascent of Man or Civilisation — or even Cosmos — playing these days. Who'd have the attention span for them?

    Actually, though, there was a little series on the history of maths done by Marcus du Sautoy which wasn't too bad. Even had some actual maths in it. So I guess it can be done, but why isn't anyone doing it?

  7. I watched this too, hoping for some traditionally revealing and compelling BBC documentary of the kind I remember as a child (Natural World, Wildlife on one) but what we were greeting with instead was a horrible American style, fact-based television event voiced by David Attenborough. The swooshing and editing made me feel a bit ill and detracted from what could have been a very interesting program. Like you said, it could have been summed up in about 10 minutes such was the lack of real information.