Alastair Campbell and sexing up British nature documentaries
I blame David Attenborough. All those ground-breaking series, from Life on Earth to the Blue Planet to Life in the Freezer to Life in Cold Blood, we have grown used to seeing nature as spectacle '“ majestic, ruthless, poignant.
With the advent of HD, all of these amazing sights, from wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti, to Great Whites chasing seals, are shown in all their awe-inspiring detail.
So much so, that we forget how much nature we have at home. Our landscape has all the majesty of those Attenborough docs – albeit in miniature – and is packed with astounding sights, all the more exciting for being in our own backyard.
Into the Wild with Gordon Buchanan (BBC2, weekdays, 6.30pm) aimed to remedy this oversight.
Wildlife cameraman Buchanan has filmed around the world, but is also renowned for his work on these shores.
In this series, he takes some lily-livered celebs out into the UK to show them the delights of our own natural world.
The first episode saw ‘king of spin’ Alastair Campbell trying to spot otters, white-tailed sea eagles and seals on the island of Mull, where Buchanan was born and brought up.
Initially, Campbell was sceptical of the quest, and we were reminded of his past at the centre of government. At one point, Buchanan quoted a survey which claimed wildlife tourism brought millions into the local economy.
“I’m always very, very wary of these surveys,” says Campbell. Yeah, we know these things can get sexed up, don’t we Alastair?
But soon, his scepticism and our cynicism were forgotten. Buchanan is a very engaging guide, passionate, knowledgeable, amiable, and Campbell was soon entranced by an otter, getting within metres as it groomed itself.
On Tiree, where his family were from, Campbell even played the bagpipes in an attempt to attract some seals.
By the time a pod of dolphins joined the pair – playing and jumping around their boat – he was waxing lyrical about the poetry of nature.
It’s a brilliant hour, reintroducing the nation to the joys of the small-scale, the low-key, the wonders on our doorstep.