Spread it or ignore it?
The BBC has shot thousands of hours of nature footage over the years, so it has a vast vault of footage that has never been seen before. So what’s the best thing to do with it? Add some funny human voices and make a skit out of it, of course! And then add Helen Mirren’s narration! This is the idea behind When nature calls with Helen Mirren.
Opening shot: Some panoramic views, including mountain scenes. Helen Mirren sings: “The natural world. Superb by its beauty.
The essential: When nature calls with Helen Mirren (the title was changed when the Oscar winner signed on to narrate) essentially a series of comedy sketches where human voices are posed over stunning nature footage from the BBC (the show is based on the format of the BBC series Walk on the wild side).
The idea is that Mirren tells most of an episode with the gravity and seriousness of any nature narrator, making sweeping generalizations about the beauty and grandeur of nature, but with the concept that we can now hear what these animals are saying to each other.
Next, we watch a group of Capuchin monkeys watch one try to break into a pile of rocks, with a voiceover making ape like a suburban husband trying to fix the air conditioner himself. The squirrels stuff their cheeks and talk about the “work” they have done on them in a Real housewives segment. A wolf walks into the camera and gives “unpopular opinions” like “I don’t understand why people like Chris Hemsworth”.
Even Mirren gets in on the act, going “off-screenplay” to ask a producer if she can bring home a furry creature she sees on her screen. She also denounces the popularity of social media influencers, among others.
What shows will this remind you of? If you marry a David Attenborough nature show with something like the Bad Lip Reading video series, this is the result.
Our opinion : We give to KP Anderson, the showrunner of When nature calls, credit for signing Mirren to do this show, which only happened earlier this month. This gave the show a little more credibility, and the idea that the Lady (she calls herself “any old lady” at the start of the episode) would add some seriousness to the proceedings makes it even more so. the contrast between the sketches and the funny asides of Mirren. acute. But the problem with the show is that the sketches are painfully not funny.
Despite the show being rated TV-14, there is very little nervousness in the skits. For example, in the Real housewives skit, the squirrels talk from their cheeks and then scold another furry creature for calling them “Madame”. But if the skit wanted to “go out there,” it would show the squirrels arguing over something one of them said on Twitter, or arguing over a lack of a party invite.
Fortunately, the sketches only last about 30 seconds, and then the landscape continues. And believe us when we say the set is the best part of the show. Taken from thousands of hours of nature footage from the BBC, this is spectacular stuff. But the skits are so loosely written that, despite the best efforts of the voiceover artists to make the skits fun, everything falls flat.
Gender and skin: Nothing. There aren’t even any mating scenes in this episode.
Starting shot: Toads are fighting, one toad “telling” another to get out of his house.
Sleeper Star: All the filmmakers and directors who have obtained these images for the BBC over the years deserve all the credit in the world.
Most pilot line: Mirren calls the BAFTAs the “UK version of the MTV Movie Awards”.
Our call: JUMP. We love the idea of Mirren having fun on wacky images of human animals. But When nature calls with Helen Mirren is so little funny that you will get bored looking at it.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
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