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Astonishing animals, whales. Way back in evolutionary history the smart money was to get out of the ocean and colonise the land. After a short visit to the future the whales and their dim cousins the dolphins decided that the past was the way forward and returned to the sea. Being large, and in the case of whales, truly huge, man hunted whales until most of them had been eaten or boiled down for oil. Then a conference – not too different in effectiveness or focus as COP17 – stopped the whale hunting except for scientific research. Japan took up the burden of pure science plus a little bit of gormandising and the show went on. Are we up to speed? Good. Now switch on Whale Wars on Animal Planet and follow the actions of Sea Shepherd, its noble captain and suicidal crew. Shot by Discovery with some extended and very interesting close-ups of the Sea Shepherd dudes outlining their purpose on Earth, each episode follows the Sea Shepherd and its cohort of helicopter, inflatables and other ships as they track Japanese whalers and try to prevent them hunting whales in the icebound and dangerous Southern Ocean. Their devotion to this mindless crusade is chilling. They risk their lives, menace the Japanese whalers, engage in acts that some count heroic. What they are really doing is called vigilantism. Elected by no one, under the authority only of themselves and their hero-saviour complexes, this heavily financed gang of kamikaze hippies in designer uniforms are unintentionally starring in extreme reality television, in which someone sooner or later is going to die. Puzzling, really. After all, the morality of killing a whale is no different from killing a cow. Or a cockroach. Perhaps Cow Wars will come next in which the survivors take on organised agriculture. Ride ’em, cowboy!
Sticking with truth, this writer turned his gaze last week on to Masters of Illusion. It seems that somewhere in America, judging by the accents, a middle-aged man locks himself into a tiny little metal box. His assistant – in a little black dress – invites a rube, shill or mark from the studio audience to testify that the box is truly locked. A few minutes pass, the music gets mildly hysterical and lo and behold… the middle-aged man gets out of the box! It must be magic! Honest, I saw it on TV, where everything is true! Tiny little box, big middle-aged man, locks, straps, chains, independent verification of all truth by the said rube, shill or mark! Double gee, double whiz. Catch Masters of Illusion on its inevitable return to the Series Channel, some time in the very near future.
Which brings us to Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey on Discovery World. Look, take it from me, some of my best friends are Greek. When it comes to Pythagoras, souvlakia and the return of the drachma, I’m right up there with the fans, shouting and screaming in praise.
The same applies to Absolutely Fabulous starring the very same Lumley with a couple of her chums. But this Odyssey thing is very slow. We see well-known vistas of the standard skylines and marble ruins, each one with the imagination and excitement of a 1997 pictorial calendar.
Joanna Lumley is wasted on this, being sentenced by lacklustre direction to reciting lines that induce a drowsy numbness. The eyes droop, the body slumps. Is it finished yet? Zzzzzz.