Richard Hammond has ruined Planet Earth Live, say viewers
Nature-lovers take to BBC website to slam ambitious series for celebrity presenters and anthropomorphism
NATURE-LOVERS have torn into Planet Earth Live, the BBC's ambitious new TV series which broadcasts real-time footage of young animals from five continents.
Viewers have taken particular exception to the choice of Top Gear's Richard Hammond as a presenter, accusing the BBC of choosing 'celebrity' over expertise in recruiting him for what has been billed as a "global Springwatch".
The BBC's Points of View website has been inundated with complaints following the first episode of Planet Earth Live, broadcast on Sunday night. Disgruntled viewers questioned why much-loved TV naturalists such as Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Simon King were not involved.
One viewer commented: "I don't think Richard Hammond is a suitable presenter for wildlife documentaries. He's more interested in trying to be funny and should stick to low grade, inane series that he can't ruin."
Another said: "What a pity such a potentially good programme was spoilt by the MADDENING Richard Hammond. We were never allowed to view the scenes of the animals for any length of time. Such wonderful camera work was always interrupted by Hammond's prattle."
Still another expressed the hope that one of the lions which Hammond is reporting on from the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya would "actually attack and maul to death the incredibly annoying and irritating Richard Hammond live on air".
Julia Bradbury, who co-presents Planet Earth Live from Minnesota, got better reviews – possibly because she has some connection to environmental issues through her work as a presenter with Countryfile.
However, even she was criticised, with viewers accusing her of anthropomorphism and hogging the camera at the expense of the black bears she was in the US to film.
"Particularly gut wrenching was the constant shots of Julia Bradbury's facial expressions when a bear was coming down a tree," said one viewer. "We were informed it was because, like the bear, she too was a first time mother... Pass the bucket."
Hammond actually anticipated the criticism of his involvement in his pre-broadcast publicity interviews, telling the Daily Mirror: "People will say 'why is that bloke from Top Gear doing this'? I can address that head on. I'm there to ask the questions and be amazed.
"Julia and I are not going to be afraid to ask those questions that perhaps some experts wouldn't because they assume greater knowledge."
It seems Hammond might have underestimated the intelligence of an audience made up of people educated by years of excellent BBC documentaries, from landmark series such as The Blue Planet to previous attempts at the 'live' format such as Big Cat Diaries.
One commenter on Points of View suggested as much when they said of other commenters on the website: "I can only assume that most of the posters on here are viewers of a certain age ie. grown up on a rich diet of well-made BBC natural history programmes.
"If you check the comments made on the Facebook pages you will find the ratio of 'Likes' to 'Dislikes' completely different. The Facebook generation seem to like the anthropomorphic presentation that Bradbury & Hammond use. This generation have grown up with dumbed down TV and seem to like it."
However, there was harsh criticism even on social networks. On Twitter, music journalist Pete Paphides said he was enjoying Channel 4's rival - and significantly cheaper - nature series Foxes Live more than Planet Earth Live, explaining: "I think the absence of Richard Hammond and Julia Bradbury is key."