27 February, 2010

recreational habits of the common couch potato

I grew up with David Attenborough documentaries. As a youngster, I remember watching The Living Planet and The First Eden with my parents, and leafing through their big beautiful photo book of Life On Earth. In Year 12 biology class, our crotchety and wonderful teacher showed us all of The Trials of Life over several weeks; for most of my classmates this was bludge time, but I was glued to the screen.

For a long time, I've wanted to own some of Attenborough's work on DVD, as I've always been able to watch them no matter what mood I'm in – whether I'm switched on and absorbing every detail, or just letting the sights and sounds wash over me, I find them extremely engaging and oddly comforting. So recently I bought the complete box set of the BBC series Planet Earth. I was a bit torn as, though it's narrated by Attenborough, it's not written by him. But everyone I know who's seen it told me it was astonishing.

And, of course, it is just as astonishing as promised. But as I make my way through the episodes, one thought keeps pervading my viewing experience. It isn't 'This cinematography is extraordinary!' (Although it is.) It's not 'Our planet is an amazing place, full of unimaginable wonders!' (Although it most certainly is.) It's, 'This show would make for a fantastic drinking game!'

Clearly this says more about me than it does about the series itself. At any rate, here are the rules I've come up with:

1 DRINK every time something is described as biggest, smallest, highest, driest, etc. in the world
(e.g. 'these are the most densely populated reefs on the planet'; 'this is the smallest deer on earth')
1 DRINK every time something is expressed as a fraction or percentage
(e.g. 'this rainforest produces 10% of all the planet's oxygen'; 'grasslands make up one third of all the land on earth')
1 DRINK every time footage is shown in ultra slow motion, or ultra fast motion
(e.g. vision of a great white shark chomping a fur seal, slowed down forty times; baobab buds bursting into flower before your eyes)
1 GULP every time something is described as being the size of a country
(e.g. 'this glacier is the size of Wales'; 'this desert is the size of the United States')
1 GULP every time you're told something can be seen from space/the moon
(and an extra big gulp if you're actually shown the footage of said thing, as viewed from space/the moon)
1 GULP when Attenborough pronounces a place or animal name in an adorable foreign accent
(as if his ordinary accent wasn't adorable enough!)
FINISH YOUR DRINK if you see a human being

Perhaps there should be more rules, but even with these few you would be very pleasantly trashed by the end of an episode.

I suspect I may be the only person ever to think up a drinking game for a nature documentary series. I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed.

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Blogger Andrew said...

I suppose the claims Attenborough makes aren't exaggerated. And you are right, not too many would think of a drinking game to go with nature docos. I just know next time I see one, I will feel some odd urge come over me to drink.

February 27, 2010 3:23 pm  
Blogger Tom said...

I've had similar thoughts about Life on Earth.

There seem to be more and more of these types of docos post-Attenborough: very VERY pretty, but almost entirely devoid of insightful commentary. See Yellowstone as another recent example.

I really hope there will be another Attenborough type - someone who can present something genuinely interesting and even educational, but with actual articulate passion.

March 01, 2010 1:13 pm  

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