| TV Review: Miniature Britain; Weight Loss Ward; Rome|
|Some of those who have sat through nearly three hours of The Hobbit have left the cinema feeling a bit nauseous after director Peter Jackson doubled the frame rate to a hyper-real 48 frames per second. I felt much the same after about five minutes of Miniature Britain (BBC1) as the director seemed determined to switch shots and zoom in and out every few seconds. It was all a bit offputting as well as emetic. I really didn't need repeated demonstrations of the brand new special-effects camera to get the point that magnifying something 7,000 times makes very small things appear quite large. Though I can understand the temptation of having a new toy to play with.|
Although presenter George McGavin and cameraman Emilien Leonhardt were nominally in charge of proceedings, it was the camera that was the undoubted star of the show. We just didn't get quite enough of it. Had this been made as a close-up film of the natural world with George just doing the voiceover, it would have been stunning, as there were plenty of memorable sequences, not least the water bears who can survive the radiation and vacuum of space and the phytoplankton at the bottom of the marine food chain. As it was, it all felt a bit disconnected and distracting. We didn't really need to see George climb inside an oak tree to collect some bugs; my imagination may not be up to much, but it can stretch to coping with the idea that not everything that appeared in front of the camera got there by accident.
It felt as if no one making this film had any confidence that viewers would stick with it unless there was jokey banter between George and Emilien – the "to be or not to be" gag came right on cue as they filmed bees – and tricksy special effects. They should have been more confident. Nature often has more than enough special effects of its own and all that was needed was the breathing space to see them in their full glory. The precision and detail of these quantum creatures was sublime and I couldn't help wondering what on earth they would make of us if they were able to see things through a lens that made everything 7,000 times smaller.
Especially if they happened to be in Sunderland, which, as Weight Loss Ward (ITV1) told us, has the highest proportion of obese people in Britain. Not that the cameras were there to find out why, as there were no attempts to link obesity with poverty and junk food. So we were left to assume that the people of Sunderland are a bit greedier than the rest of the country. I can't say I'd be happy with that interpretation if I lived in that area of the north-east but, equally, if I was hugely overweight I wouldn't be in any hurry to appear in a documentary that was almost guaranteed to show me in a not very flattering light.
Twenty-nine year old, 47st Tony had no such qualms. But then as he also said: "How is that my problem?" when asked why he was secretly snacking on packets of Quavers while he was being kept in hospital on a strict diet at a cost to the NHS of £250 a day, it's fair to say Tony isn't a man much given to introspection. Weight Loss Ward was good on the self-deceit of food addiction, but somewhat lacking in perspective. While the doctors and nurses came across as never less than caring, their insistence on the over-medicalisation of obesity seemed unconvincing. I'm sure that gastric bands do have their place and that they are a cheaper solution than treating patients indefinitely for diabetes and heart problems in many cases, but surely the only sustainable long-term answer to the nation's increasing bulk is education and equality of opportunity?
From the very fat to ... the very loud. There are many shouty presenters to be found on TV, but none with the decibel level of Simon Sebag Montefiore. Even if I turn the remote to mute, I can still hear him. At least what he has to say is interesting, though, as his series Rome: A History of the Eternal City (BBC4) continues to be consistently informative, while slightly offbeat. Last night's episode covered the transition of the city from pagan to Christian epicentre with clarity. If you've ever wondered why the Basilica of St Peter's appears more of a monument to the temporal world than the spiritual, it's because that's precisely the way it was always intended to look.