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Television: Busy bees

03 April 2012

by Gillean Craig

SEVERAL candidates are nurtured and groomed for office, their development anxiously monitored, and, as soon as two front-runners emerge, they must fight to the death. The victor’s first task is mercilessly to dispatch all the other potential rivals; for there can be only one leader, and only by demon­strating this level of determination can she prove to the whole com­munity her clear and decisive headship. Thenceforward, they will all accord her absolute obedience, and follow wherever she leads.

It was a brilliantly topical move on the part of BBC2 to screen on Thursday of last week this trans­parent parable that laid bare the process by which a successor to Dr Rowan Williams will be appointed. For those happy to float on the surface rather than plumb inner meanings, Natural World: Queen of the Savannah was an account of Kenyan honey bees.

It was a miracle of filming: we saw inside the hive in extraordinary detail, watched bee-eaters swoop­ing to catch bees on the wing, saw the hive swarm after it had been virtually destroyed by a predator (a human being, you will be surprised to hear), and witnessed the swarm take over a new home — a man-made hive.

In fact, Peter, a native farmer, has 100 hives, all strung around his patch of farm, but not to harvest their honey: he is located on the path of the elephants’ annual migration from the plains to the forest around Mount Kenya, and, in previous years, his crop has been eaten by the passing pachyderms. Bees are the one thing that will stop them, and his cunning strategy seemed to work.

The film was over-dramatic, and the atmosphere spoilt by a bizarre tailpiece extolling the success of British urban beekeeping. It was a remarkable documentary, however, and provided food for thought.

The reality of human leadership is presented for our delectation in the welcome return of Twenty Twelve (BBC2, Friday). Hugh Bonneville is the boss of the Olympic Deliverance Team, tasked with delivering the Games, and presiding over those in charge of sustainability, legacy, and branding.

It is a glorious critique of what passes nowadays for organisation, as hopeless clowns hide their in­competence behind jargon and obfuscation, and all must defer to the PR adviser — who doesn’t know that “Muslim” and “Islam” re­fer to the same religion. The comedy is bril­liantly nuanced: al­though it portrays inept grotesques, they are only slightly more extreme versions of types we recognise all around us.

Chaplains: Angels of Mersey (BBC2, Mondays) is a new docu­mentary series that celebrates the work of religious ministers, of all faiths, who are attached to a range of institutions in and around Liver­pool. I hope that this location was chosen for its proximity to the home of BBC Religion in Salford rather than to enable the appalling pun in the title.

Last week, the wildly enthusiastic C of E university chaplain’s eager­ness to engage students in freshers’ week by offering them bacon sandwiches suffered in its contrast with the other narrative strand: RC hospital chap­lains who were pro­vid­ing sacra­mental liturgy and support to the family of a baby who faced a touch-and-go opera­­­tion to avert a fatal heart condition.

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