Spider vs. Bee

Matthew Chatfield (aka The Virtual Ranger) makes some observations about the stylistic differences in presentation between nature programs on the BBC and on American television (specifically National Geographic):

And yet both clips were superbly photographed, both accurately explained some quite complex information, and both clearly provided good entertainment to their viewers. So why are they so different? . . . To The Ranger’s British eyes, this American clip seems almost patronising and childish in its presentation. And yet the content is little different; the difference is purely stylistic.

This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed time and time again.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy content on Discovery Channel and NG and others, but as The Ranger notes, their productions always seem to value drama and flash over forthright delivery of content.  I often find myself literally yelling at the teevee to STOP DUMBING IT DOWN.  For a 1-hour program, that’s 44 minutes of screen time for maybe 18 minutes of actual Scientific Content, with the rest of it being flashy CGI, poorly staged re-enactments, and dramatic voiceover filler1.

Given a choice between investing an hour of my time in a BBC program2 or an American equivalent, I’d take the BBC offering pretty much every time3.

  1. I can hear Peter Coyote intoning “Will man ever set foot on the Red Planet? Will our children colonize the stars?” Seriously, bleh.
  2. Horizon, for example.
  3. With the exception of perhaps Nova, but even that show is starting to lose a bit of luster.
posted 7/30/08 at 10:07am to Science!, Teevee · 0 replies · »

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