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The Guardian: Chris Packham

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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 16:11   #1
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The Guardian: Chris Packham

Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 9 July 2012: Chris Packham the next David Attenborough?
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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 16:58   #2
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Interesting piece.

I suppose when someone becomes "the next Attenborough" it'll be when people talk about them for who they are rather than who they're not. Big, big shoes to fill, but who knows which way it'll go?
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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 17:44   #3
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The next Attenborough? I'd rather see him concentrate on being the 'first' Chris Packham. He's clearly a very bright bloke with a wide range of talents who should be valued in his own right, but then what else would you expect of a fellow So'tonian and Saints supporter? It's a matter of regret that, although we grew up a mile or two apart, pottered around in the same areas and even went to the same school, due to a 10 year age gap, our paths never crossed. As for his 'speech impediment', which the article mentions several times, I find it so slight and inconsequential I never notice it,
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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 18:00   #4
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I beleive he has done a lot of work on his delivery. As John says it is hardly noticeable these days, certainly not the "Cwis" of old.

As for "the next Attenborough" I don't think anyone is suggesting he is a clone of Sir David, but as a heavyweight anchor for the Natural History Unit he is a natural successor and will I believe get even better (than he is now, not better than the mighty Attenborough). I just hope he doesn't mature too much!

As a birding Hampshire lad of 49 but not a Southampton alumnus, I wonder sometimes if we have crossed paths, but I'm shocking about names and wouldn't remember. A future tick perhaps.

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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 19:40   #5
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As a birding Hampshire lad of 49 but not a Southampton alumnus ....

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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 20:03   #6
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Well, we all have our crosses to bear,
Indeed. My dear wife is a Southampton alumnus. She'd probably have been happier with a sailor...
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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 20:16   #7
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An interesting article. I didn't know about his interest in fast cars, although when he was on Countryfile at Jeremy Clarkson's farm, they were using Clarkson's Range Rover as a hide to take photographs and Chris asked him if they could have a Ferrari instead.

I didn't know about the inner ear problems either. That can't be very pleasant. I think he still has a way to go before the term 'National Treasure' can be conferred on him, though, like David Attenborough.

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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 21:46   #8
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I had a mate who went to Southampton and he came home halfway through each term as otherwise he would have had to buy a second pair of jeans.

I shall not comment further.

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Old Monday 9th July 2012, 22:41   #9
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I'm a big fan of Nick Baker - very keen and very knowledgeable with a good sense of humour. And always has a pair of bins round his neck when filming abroad, a sign to me that they really are interested!
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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 00:43   #10
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Very good piece, they have done their research.

'The new Attenborough' comes up all the time for any presenter who does a 'serious' nature programme, and I remember that Charlotte Uhlenbroek was a BBC high-flier who seemed a contender for the title not 10 years ago (remember the major series 'Cousins' and 'Jungle'?), but today I saw her doing a 5-minute presenting item on ITV's Countrywise, which had 'TV wilderness' written all over it. I notice she no longer appears to work for the BBC (like Nick Baker), so they clearly have trouble managing good, skilled nature presenters. In fact, isn't Attenborough's latest series made by Sky and not the BBC? Packham could easily fall out of favour too, and end up on Channel 5 with Baker and Uhlenbroek in 5 years.

But I'd also say that Attenborough has not made a good wildlife documentary with the BBC for about 15 years. Blue Planet and Life in the Freezer etc. were glossy coffee-table extravaganzas of photography, showing all the usual cliches. Jaw-dropping photography, but quite vacuous, and all made with Discovery Channel money.

Ironically, Packham's new series reminds me of the 'proper Attenborough', from the era that made his name (Life on Earth, Living Planet), where it actually tells you things you didn't know, there was a clear and defined story within and between episodes, and the script was more important than the photography. There was no glitzy but pointless super slo-mo shots of sharks doing somersaults from 30 different angles (costing about $100,000 to film 3 seconds), the camerawork was very simple and straighforward.

Also interesting to see that some of Packham's "outspoken" comments are exactly the same as Attenborough's, who is patron of the Optimum Population Trust and has been 'outspoken' about population for years. It's never done him any harm.

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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 18:57   #11
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Like John Cantelo above I prefer to think of him as the first Chris Packham. He has a life time ahead before we can judge if he is the next David Attenborough or even the next Sir Peter Scott.
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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 19:53   #12
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I am surprised to read in that article that he has Meniere's Disease and in an odd way slightly pleased too as I have it too so I now like him more. As for the next Attenborough, that's boring me stiff now, like it has been said earlier, let him be the current Packham.
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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 21:29   #13
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Alf, did you see Attenborough's last authored BBC series, First Life? This was right up there with his best series, because it was very understated and explored the science of palaeontology and how the earliest life on Earth evolved. This was the last of the Life series and I found it to be riveting viewing.

Are you also mixing up Life in the Freezer with Frozen Planet?

The latter was I felt a very impressive series, but I would agree with any assertion that it lacked the depth of earlier series. However for me it was still a joy to behold - it may well have been a showcase for photography over content, but they did it very, very well indeed, it was beautifully shot, and the scenes of the killer whales hunting seals around Antarctica were some of the most memorable scenes I've ever seen in any nature documentary.
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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 21:50   #14
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Good to see fellow Soton alumni here!

Best line of the piece - That shows you how fickle and stupid TV people are. Couldn't have put it better myself!
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Old Tuesday 10th July 2012, 22:49   #15
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Alf, did you see Attenborough's last authored BBC series, First Life?
I'll grant you that, it was a marked improvement, but it was also his pet project and he's at the stage where he can demand it. But since the BBC started doing everything in conjunction with Discovery Channel 20 years ago, the quality has plummetted. I know they need the Discovery money to get the fantastic images and fund these global series, but that has been at the expense of the script and quality of content.

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Are you also mixing up Life in the Freezer with Frozen Planet?
Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, Life in the Freezer, take your pick. They all had the cliched killer whales, penguins, polar bears, crash-bang-wallop imagery of large predators attacking prey, all set to bombastic music, which is what sells around the World. And always with the blood or sex edited out, so as not to upset any of the global market.

Yes, camerawork has improved and it's all jaw-dropping imagery, but it's all rather....boring and samey. A good comparison was Earthflight, which also contained jaw-dropping imagery, but it was still an awful series.

Attenborough's recent output has jumped between 5-minute sequences like a sketch show, leaving me wondering what they are trying to say. Killer Whales eat seals in the Arctic? Ok. Leopard Seals hunt penguins in the Antarctic? Well, something has to. But what links Killer Whales and Leopard Seals? What do the seals and penguins eat? How do they survive and solve the same problems of intense cold and seasonality?

What I noticed is that Packham's shows contained none of this 'amazing' photography, none of these jaw-dropping sequences, but I felt like I had actually learnt so much more (and so much worth knowing) in one episode of Secrets... than in a whole series of Life...

Reading in the article that he's spent a few weeks living in a glacier doens't fill me with optimism!

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 08:30   #16
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As for the next Attenborough, that's boring me stiff now, like it has been said earlier, let him be the current Packham.
Agreed - very boring. Almost as bad as England trying to find the next Ian Botham (or is it the new Andrew Flintoff now?).
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 08:46   #17
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I'm a big fan of Nick Baker - very keen and very knowledgeable with a good sense of humour. And always has a pair of bins round his neck when filming abroad, a sign to me that they really are interested!
There is not much to choose between Chris and Nick but Nick gets my nod not just because I have worked with him but because his presenting technique has always been mostly to put himself behind the subject a la Attenborough. Chris has developed this too these days and Secrets shows a much more mature presenter when he is not fooling around on a live show.

Alf mentioned Charlotte Uhlenbroek but I think one of her biggest problems was that she was not strong enough to say 'no' to her producers. During the Jungle series there was a gratuitous swimming costume shot (a white one-piece in the jungle?) and a Winslet-esque shot on the front of a river boat. I suppose it is human nature for the producers to do this and for Charlotte not to ignore that she is a beautiful woman but the female audience would not be able to take her seriously and that is half of the audience after all.

Nick Baker is doing various series on Ch 5 etc in between working for the RSPB (really!) and I suspect this was mostly because of the re-emergence of Bill Oddie and Simon King and the fact that all the good presenting jobs were tied up. I am not sure why he was passed over by the BBC when Bill and Simon left Springwatch unless he is uncomfortable with the live format but I suspect it is simply that Chris Packham was in the right place at the right time.

However, I think we all tend to forget the one real gem - Iolo Williams. A massive hit on Welsh TV and very popular when he is given a slot on Springwatch.
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 09:38   #18
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Living in the BBC South region I used to see him sometimes presenting Inside Out and as the article mentions, it allowed him to mature in front of camera and to gain good experience, having to deal with subject matters that he might not have been so au fait with.

This latest series of his shows how he has improved as a presenter in the non-live environment and shows that he has the knowledge and perhaps the gravitas to pull such documentaries off.

I've loved the programme, opening my eyes up to just how complex and interwoven ecosystems are, which is something I have been told before but never in such an effective way. It's has a very powerful message about maintaining biodiversity, a message that needs to be hammered home to policy makers.
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 10:21   #19
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Good to see I'm not alone in thinking most of Auntie's recent wildlife output seems to have consisted of "Look what my new camera can do!" rather than "Look what this animal/plant can do!" Watching Packham has made me dig out my Life on Earth DVDs to watch again.

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 10:46   #20
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Nick Baker is doing various series on Ch 5 etc in between working for the RSPB (really!)
What is he doing for the RSPB?

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However, I think we all tend to forget the one real gem - Iolo Williams. A massive hit on Welsh TV and very popular when he is given a slot on Springwatch.
I may be alone in this, but I really do not like him as a presenter! I think it's his style, and a few times his knowledge seems to have been quite basic. I know I have just praised Packham for his back-to-basics photography, but I thought the camerawork in Iolo's last series was quite awful (lots of blurry distant shots through heat haze, like they didn't have the right gear for the job). Finally, I've got nothing against Wales, and regionalism is great in your own region and for a TV 'holiday', but Iolo does seem to have painted himself into a bit of a Welsh corner. I get the feeling he wouldn't be much use presenting something in East Anglia, for instance, where he couldn't play to his strengths and his home crowd audience.

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 16:42   #21
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What is he doing for the RSPB?
If I remember rightly, it is something to do with ring ouzels on Dartmoor and I am pretty sure it is just a casual role albeit a paid one.

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I may be alone in this, but I really do not like him as a presenter! I think it's his style, and a few times his knowledge seems to have been quite basic. I know I have just praised Packham for his back-to-basics photography, but I thought the camerawork in Iolo's last series was quite awful (lots of blurry distant shots through heat haze, like they didn't have the right gear for the job). Finally, I've got nothing against Wales, and regionalism is great in your own region and for a TV 'holiday', but Iolo does seem to have painted himself into a bit of a Welsh corner. I get the feeling he wouldn't be much use presenting something in East Anglia, for instance, where he couldn't play to his strengths and his home crowd audience.
Interesting points Alf and I am not going to disagree with an opinion for the sake of it although I am not sure about your final sentence. I have followed some of the biology in Iolo's programmes and items on Sprinwatch and I see no reason why he could not present the same elsewhere. Wales is not that unique when it comes down to its biology. There is a regionalist issue in the negative sense in that I am not sure people would accept Iolo's Welsh accent in the way they have accepted the easy listening from Gordon Buccanan. It is strange how we see some regionalism differently for a different subject - in music, it has always been difficult to present Scottish political comment to the point that Runrig and to a lesser extent, Deacon Blue are not as popular as they should be whereas we happily forgive Clannad for expressing the same sentiments from an Irish perspective. In that respect, I don't think Iolo is playing to the home crowd so much as he has the feeling no one else wants to listen to him given the programmers do not give him many opportunities outside Wales.
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 17:03   #22
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Wales is not that unique when it comes down to its biology. There is a regionalist issue in the negative sense in that I am not sure people would accept Iolo's Welsh accent in the way they have accepted the easy listening from Gordon Buccanan.
I think you have hit the nail on the head for me. I like Buchanan, and I do not notice that he is Scottish (as a viewer shouldn't, really). But Iolo sells himself as 'Mr Wales', and he barely gets through a piece on Springwatch without refering back to it and doing the hard sell. That's fine, promoting Welsh wildlife to the nation, but it means that I in London feel like he represents someone else in front of the camera, and not me. Buchanan's accent is just as strong, but he never mentions Scotland much and "how wonderful it all is" even when he's filming there, so he feels inclusive, whereas Iolo feels insular and exclusive to me. If that makes any sense?! I imagine it would grate just as much to a viewer in Bangor if a Cockney were doing Iolo's job, and never shutting up about how wonderful it is 'vis migging' on Primrose Hill!
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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 17:57   #23
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The next Attenborough? I'd rather see him concentrate on being the 'first' Chris Packham. He's clearly a very bright bloke with a wide range of talents who should be valued in his own right, but then what else would you expect of a fellow So'tonian and Saints supporter? It's a matter of regret that, although we grew up a mile or two apart, pottered around in the same areas and even went to the same school, due to a 10 year age gap, our paths never crossed. As for his 'speech impediment', which the article mentions several times, I find it so slight and inconsequential I never notice it,
Comes from the same town(Bitterne)where I spent my early years & lives 20mins up the road from me.

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 18:27   #24
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Quite interesting viewpoints expressed.

I too actually prefer Nick Baker to Chris Packham, but I think Nick's metier is the investigation of a species (and the selling to the audience of something far from lovable) whereas Chris is moving towards the bigger issues. Between the two of them they could revitalise British nature TV (and I think we might see some new programmes on British nature rather better than the awful Titchmarsh series, too).

I have no time for Iolo Williams, he's a total turn off and often his facts are wrong let alone basic. I prefer Johnny Kingdom any day, at least with him you get the delight of discovery with every little thing because he knows nothing!

Gordon is great and I agree his approach is non-regionalist. He is also totally fearless, I was amazed as he left camp in India/Nepal to try to film a presumed leopard in pitch darkness. BTW if you want a Scottish musical perspective then Capercaillie can be quite powerful: here come the clearances my friend!

Lets have Gordon make a proper series about the wildlife of Scotland with a Capercaillie and Runrig soundtrack. Iolo can try to do Wales with Cerys Matthews lisping in the background and Chris can do each of the English National Parks backed by the Smiths, Bowie, Chris Rea, Joan Armatrading and the Fisherman's Friends.

Nick can do a new series of Weird Ctreatures focusing on Chris, Iolo, Gordon....

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2012, 18:40   #25
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I suspect that all of those mentioned in this thread, even Johnny Kingdom (who I find deeply irritating), do a better job than any of us here pontificating about it,
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