Friday, December 09, 2011

The old sock theory of television presenting

David Attenborough is a figure of such beaming benevolence that I believe he could talk at a funeral and leave everyone feeling happy and serene. Indeed, that is what he has been doing for most of his working life - providing a sunny and cheerful voiceover to documentaries wherein owls swoop down on mice, wolves hunt down bunnies, and lions commit various reprehensible acts on various smaller species of wildlife. Just imagine that familiar Attenborough voice, commenting, "A lion disembowelling a leopard." I can hear it as cheerful, matter of fact, perky, or instructional - but I just can't imagine Attenborough actually sounding horrified.

Maybe it's because I've grown up with Attenborough, somewhere, in the background, that he seems so nice and cosy, like a pair of old socks. (Okay, maybe less wooly, and with better elocution skills, and slightly more malarial than your usual pair of old socks.) But you have to wonder whether Attenborough's not also partially responsible for the dolphin-whalesong-flowers-and-loveliness generation.

Aside from funerals and charnel scenes of nature being red in tooth and claw, Attenborough can also narrate the most frightful bollocks and still seem all lovely and cosy. I heard him commit the following line on air just the other day:

Until such time, the question of whether it is too late to save the ocean will hang in the balance.
My first thought on this - well, my first thought was "aw, it's David Attenborough, he's like a lovely pair of old socks!" - but my second thought was, "huh? How can a question hang in the balance?" The line was from a scripted documentary - but I'm still not really sure what it means.

It's disturbing to think this lovely old fellow could have been going about all his life reciting lines like this, and making people feel all warm and lovely about the most absurd nonsense.

On the other hand, who else could narrate nature documentaries like him? Terry Wogan? I suppose Kenneth Branagh, who's played a number of Shakespearean tragic heros, and Frankenstein's monster, could really add that touch of gore and terror to nature documentaries. But really, the very thought is unthinkable. Nature documentaries without David Attenbourough? That's like imagining the Bishop of Canterbury without his beard. Or a cosy pair of old socks without, er, the old socks.

Hey look, there he is again! Awwwwwwwwwwwww.


Anonymous said...

Now Tim. I really cannot let this savage attack on Sir David Attenborough go unanswered. Yes, he does come across as a lovely, charming and 'worn in' sort of soul. And that is him, from what I can gather and I have met him TWICE (at book signings). He is gracious and interested and humble. You do realise that, without him, nature documentaries in their current for probably just wouldn't exist? He conceived and wrote all of the 'Life' series. He was head of some bit of the BBC. He was my childhood hero, Tim. 'Life on Earth' is likely the single most influential piece of telly I've ever watched. SO, rant over. ;) I agree though, the line you describe sucks.

Anonymous said...

Promise I won't rant again Tim ;)

TimT said...

No, keep ranting, there should be more of it. That's one of the reasons blogs exist I think.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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