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Paul Kay

BBC Dumbing down?

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I have tried to watch episodes of the latest BBC underwater "Oceans" twice now, but each time I have switched off after a few minutes. Whilst the dive team have visited many spectacular places, discussed numerous potentially interesting topics and have seen some amazing creatures, they have obviously not considered that there may be anything vaguely like an underwater code of conduct, or considered their impact on the marine environment or its inhabitants. They have handled creatures - and actually shoved a seahorse into the palm of a hand - damaged reefs and even sat on them, and have generally had pretty appalling buoyancy skills. All in all, I'm actually very disappointed that the BBC can produce and show such material - it really doesn't do them any favours. Having spent time and effort trying to get divers to appreciate and not damage the places that they visit I find it very discouraging that bad practices are shown on prime time tv by an organisation like the BBC.

 

Is it just me or has anyone else seen the series and felt the same?

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I haven't seen it yet ... my mistake ... but my friends including divers all tell me it is much better than Blue Planet .. I willhave to see for myself now !

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Here is some of what AA Gill (TV critic in Sunday Times) had to say (which is probably the harshest review of his I have ever read:

 

"This is a big, expensive co-production that has come back with film that looks like a second-marriage honeymoon from the Red Sea... Worse than the empty Sea of Cortez, worse than the horrible presenters, was the utterly bereft script. A sea of intellectual plankton, an ocean of clichés, truisms, non-sequiturs and the mood music of happy-feely words. It was chronically embarrassing... Grandpa Cousteau led what looked like legionnaires in Speedos to discover an element that was as strange and awe-inspiring as outer space. Grandson Cousteau has a beach-bum American accent and talks with a dim sentimentality, with meaning-neutered exclamations about his feelings. Things are great, because he’s seen them. They’re marvellous, because he’s here. It’s the hideous solipsism of the vain gap-year blog, and this is what you get when you make co-productions with the Discovery Channel."

 

I have not watched an episode, mainly because Eleonora watched an episode and said it was unbearably boring. So it hasn't been allowed on again in our house.

 

Alex

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I've got to agree, its very dissapointing both in content and in the behaviour of the divers.

 

All the divers I've talked to about it also found it dissapointing.

 

Colin

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"Grandpa Cousteau led what looked like legionnaires in Speedos to discover an element that was as strange and awe-inspiring as outer space. Grandson Cousteau has a beach-bum American accent and talks with a dim sentimentality, with meaning-neutered exclamations about his feelings. Things are great, because he's seen them. They're marvellous, because he's here. It's the hideous solipsism of the vain gap-year blog, and this is what you get when you make co-productions with the Discovery Channel."

 

LOL We have to get this guy to comment on our image gallery just to spice things up. Brilliant to see someone write in a newspaper above the grade school level.

Steve

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Agree with you Paul. My particular bugbear is how directors insist on trying to make out all the time how dangerous diving is. Poor buoyancy and handling marine life also annoy me big time. I have "watched" each episode of Oceans but I record them and fast forward through all the surface and talking bits and just watch the underwater footage. My benchmark for marine documentaries is The Blue Planet - now that was a series. Basically, I don't want to see presenters and hear them witter on - I want to see the underwater world.

 

PS - our favourite game with Oceans now is to see how long it takes the narrator to tell us that Phillipe Cousteau is grandson of Jacques.

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...... My particular bugbear is how directors insist on trying to make out all the time how dangerous diving is. ...... handling marine life also annoy me big time.........

 

Crikey, probably producers trying to emulate the ratings (and therefor commercial) success of the Steve Irwin (RIP) phenomenon.

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Hell - I thought it was just me.

 

Am as disappointed as you Paul, have not managed to watch a complete episode yet.

 

Pity, given that it must have cost a bob or two to make, with the exotic locations and all.

 

Beeb should have sponsored Dean to make an epic on pike - that at least would have been interesting.

 

Paul C

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Crikey, probably producers trying to emulate the ratings (and therefor commercial) success of the Steve Irwin (RIP) phenomenon.

 

I hadn't thought about that, but I think you may be on to something.. that would explain the handling of marine life.

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Wow .. i think the car crash syndrome has hit me now ... I HAVE to watch it to see how bad it is !

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Darren, I believe that you are right. Unfortunately, most of the new documentaries seems to follow in the foot steps of Stewe Irwin. I personally do not like it.

 

/Erik

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Darren, I believe that you are right. Unfortunately, most of the new documentaries seems to follow in the foot steps of Steve Irwin. I personally do not like it.

 

/Erik

 

Yes, it's unfortunate and frustrating that the a large part of the market must respond with their remotes to the "touchy-feely" stuff.

There must be a way to blend unbridled enthusiasm with quality content... don't you think?

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Here is some of what AA Gill (TV critic in Sunday Times) had to say (which is probably the harshest review of his I have ever read:

 

"This is a big, expensive co-production that has come back with film that looks like a second-marriage honeymoon from the Red Sea... Worse than the empty Sea of Cortez, worse than the horrible presenters, was the utterly bereft script. A sea of intellectual plankton, an ocean of clichés, truisms, non-sequiturs and the mood music of happy-feely words. It was chronically embarrassing... Grandpa Cousteau led what looked like legionnaires in Speedos to discover an element that was as strange and awe-inspiring as outer space. Grandson Cousteau has a beach-bum American accent and talks with a dim sentimentality, with meaning-neutered exclamations about his feelings. Things are great, because he’s seen them. They’re marvellous, because he’s here. It’s the hideous solipsism of the vain gap-year blog, and this is what you get when you make co-productions with the Discovery Channel."

 

I have not watched an episode, mainly because Eleonora watched an episode and said it was unbearably boring. So it hasn't been allowed on again in our house.

 

Alex

 

AA Gill is such a genius. he has a knack of putting into words that little thing that is annoying you so much but you don't know why. now i fully understand what annoys me about

felipe cousteu.

 

i watched the first episode, which i found mildly encouraging because they mentioned how many sharks had dissapeared from the sea of cortez. but after the next episode i found it all too tedious, a little like regional tv done on a big scale. so haven't bothered to watch any more.

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Yepp, I fully agree.

I have just gone trough the old Cousteau episodes on these re-released DVD's. It was a lreally interesting. I have to admit that I got a bit shocked of the touch'n'feel there as well. I assume that the touch'n'feel gives people in the TV sofas a sort of feeling of what that fish/animal is and therefore higher ratings. However, I give the Cousteaus the benefit of a doubt, due to the era of the movies/ TV episodes. Nowadays, we should now better.

 

/Erik

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Hi all,

 

Thanks you for starting this thread Paul-I was afraid that I might have to!

 

I am very disapointed with the series-poor science, lots of surface fill (presumably due to a lack of good underwater footage), and a general pervasive are of this being made out to be something ground breaking-which it quite clearly isn't.

 

The episode on the Southern Oceans begins with the team deciding that the reduction in the kelp beds, and hence habitat for leafy sea dragons wsas due to an increase in water temperature-which has resulted in a boom in the number of kelp eating sea urchins-quite reasonable as a hypothesis, but the team seem to accept this as a conclusion. That is until the final scenes in which they are re-introducing lobsters (sea urchin predators) that have been fished out- in order to reduce sea urchin predation on the kelp beds!

 

The Red Sea episode has Paul seeing a school of hammerheads a long way away (they hardly registered on camera) and claiming that this is somehow a help to understanding distribution of them. Let's be honest, there are a number of commercial liveaboards operating in Sudan now-the wreck of the Umbria, whilst very pretty is nothing new!

 

An earlier post related this series to the Blue Planet series-there is quite simply no comparison. On the Blue Planet series they quite genuinely documented scene that had never been seen or filmed before-they spent years doing it, and came back with some of the best underwater footage of recent times. By comparison, Oceans is an attempt at a whistle stop boys (or girls!) own adventure with very little to recommend it in either footage or scientific outcomes!

 

I wouldn't recommend the DVD!

 

Just my thoughts as always.

 

Adam

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Well, I usually can't abide AA Gill, a preening, self-important misanthrope if there ever was one, but he's pretty close to the mark.

 

"Oceans" is the second BBC series to dramatise poor science, shoddy filming and gushing commentary in the underwater world: "Pacific Abyss" was every bit as bad.

 

I spoke to a (former) BBC producer last month and took away these conclusions:

 

1) There is a deliberate thrust towards naive populism.

2) The co-sponsors and co-producers (usually, I'm afraid, from the USA) want danger, excitement and drama, not science.

3) Expedition filming involves very tight timelines, and any shot will be pressed into service. The "Blue Planet", big-budget, techniques have gone out of the window.

 

That said, I still can't understand how the new generation of "experts" can spend so much time hanging onto, bouncing off or kneeling on the reefs that they claim to love.

 

I'm not as ecologically moral as I should be: I admit to eating some fish, and I once shot a nautilus hauled unceremoniously in a cage from it's deep-water home, but I am very upset by this series.

 

post-4522-1228660464.jpg post-4522-1228660429.jpg

 

Tim

 

;)

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PS

 

Has anyone who has actually seen the series noticed the "dangling gauge syndrome" that afflicts most of the participants?

 

I seem to recall that, on the TV, it even affects divers in technical gear, who obviously weren't the victims of my technical instructor's passion for streamlining!

 

Tim

 

;)

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Ultimately it may not be fair to compare this setup to "The Blue Planet" as the budget on that was simply enormous.

 

Sadly, I can understand that budgets for these things cannot just get bigger and bigger.

 

Having said that, whatever the budget there should be no excuse for some of the stuff that is being said and is going on during this series.

 

Paul C

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Coincidentally, I was in the pub yesterday afternoon with some archaelogist friends who know one of the presenters well and without me bringing it up they went into a long rant on the series. And they had really tried to like the series!

 

As underwater image makers we all know how hard to two shots are - i.e. animal doing something interesting with diver/presenter in frame too. In this case I don't think that they invested enough time/knowledge into trying to get these shots that are in essence the key images for these programs. Takes talent on both sides of the camera to get them.

 

Alex

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"Oceans" is the second BBC series to dramatise poor science, shoddy filming and gushing commentary in the underwater world: "Pacific Abyss" was every bit as bad.

 

Don't get me started on that one, as well! Finding Oceans less irritating than Pacific Abyss definitely.

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I've had a series of annoyed e-mails from Steffi Schwabe because she is the scientist and deep-diving petrologist that has been researching the Black Hole in Andros. She had nothing good to say about the BBC team or Paul Rose and was not surprised that she was not even mentioned in that part of the programme although she was their holding their hands while they shot it.

A typical excerpt: "I am saddened that I have risked my life so often to share with the world, what it is that I do and to be shafted like I was with the BBC."

 

Yes, the BBC shoots shit now. (I'm not AA Gill but I choose my words carefully)

 

Oh, and just a small point: All the diving locations have previously been covered by us in Diver Magazine! Is that where they did their script research?

Edited by John Bantin

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better than the Blue Planet, is he on drugs.

 

i have watched them all, and it isn't for the content. I watch it to see how bad it can be this time. It is deffinately getting worse as the weeks go on. Why do people who make this kind of programme always have to exagerate everything. Some of the things that get said each week :

 

1. They are diving in ripping currents. ( um, their bubbles dont seem to give that indication, it actually looks very calm indeed. )

2. No one has ever dived here before. ( I think they most probably have )

3. He is alone down there and running out of oxygen. ( there is a cameraman down there too, i would expect at least one safety back up diver, oh and please it isnt oxygen in that cylinder )

4. Wow thats amazing, this is such a rare sighting. ( usually means there are 2 mantas in the frame )

 

 

They more or less found out this week that there are little wrasse on the reef that clean parasites off of other fish that come by, they claim it to be a cleaning station. so take note for when you are next on a reef somewhere, look out for these little wrasse. How amazing would that be to see.

 

 

Bring back Ross

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BBC underwater "Oceans".

 

Well done Paul for kicking this one off. I was wondering if my total disappointment with this ‘show’ was just me being grumpy. It’s not, it’s truly awful. What a lot of wasted everythings.

For me what really gives it the stamp of TV garbage is the choice or narrator – I’m pretty sure he is the man adding such gravitas to another BBC program (although probably a bought in format) ‘The Apprentice’.

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Wow ... pretty damning views here.

Presenter led series are never going to beat out a series like the Blue Planet/Planet Earth where there is little human interference. I do have to say that the difficulties of shooting with a person in shot while getting behavior isn't just about time and effort, it's also (largely in fact) about serendipity as well. I can easily name a larger production called Wild Oceans (Imax) which had the worst luck in shooting the sequences they needed. Factor in Imax camera size and the speed at which the subject moves, they skunked 2 years running trying to shoot it and that was without a presenter. On a smaller scale, Jeff Corwin went to south africa for the baitballs and got nothing good with him in the shot, mainly because conditions were not great and "other" things as well.

How easy is it for a presenter to be shot in strong current with a fullface mask? As TDPriest says, I do think this series and how it was written is aimed directly at the general public and not for people like us. The messages from the shark conservation to apex predator changes due to overfishing does go a long way if presented as a fact and not preachingly. Getting the interest of people in aquatic world and not thrusting our agenda does work, albeit slowly.

Jacques Couteau's Conshelf II project being revisited by his grandson adds a humanistic aspect, without being anthropomorphic about sea denizens displaying "human" characteristics. I think that's a great idea.

The good news is next year, the beeb will be releasing a new series that will at least have some awesome sequences (Sorry Auntie Beeb but I think you need a bit of promo in this thread :P) Also I hope to see Tooni more often on TV, I'm so waiting for a presenter who isn't old and graying, male and/or blonde and actually have a brain!

 

AA Gill is a joke himself so his views I'll just treat with similar contempt he tries so hard to show others.

 

Just so you all know, there is at least 1 fellow wetpixel member (lurker mostly) who did participate in the making of this series.

 

John, unfortunately many production companies regularly forget to credit the many people who help with the series. The producers on location are usually bundles of raw nerves and do not take note of the contributions of people they hire/volunteers etc in the final thanks you in the credits. I do have to say that TV presenters are also human and generally not like as their on screen persona. Some are nicer and well some are just grumpy folks. Talking about credit, even camera work credit has been left out of many premier series like Planet Earth etc. They sometimes try to correct it in the DVD or the 2nd broadcasts and sometimes not :)

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Well, I usually can't abide AA Gill, a preening, self-important misanthrope if there ever was one, but he's pretty close to the mark.

 

I read the Times online to read his restaurant reviews. If you skip the first 1/3 of every review where he talks about the world and himself (and I don't get any of it, must be a Brit thing) the food reviews are actually (IMHO) quite interesting.

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