NOT least among lockdown’s baleful consequences is being deafened by raucous birdsong and assailed by scent-laden blossom and clean air. TV seems to think all this a good thing, and offers a slew of celebratory programmes.
Springwatch (BBC2, Tuesday-Friday of last week) showed the success of determined efforts to bring back to our islands species long driven to extinction: ospreys now breed, otters once again dam rivers, and even great bustards will once again stalk Salisbury Plain. This process is not confined to the natural world: I understand that the Prayer Book Society is well advanced in its plans to reintroduce the Commination Service, and the Quicunque Vult was glimpsed in St Bartholomew the Great’s live-streamed Sunday mass (YouTube, 7 June).
At least Springwatch admits to brutal realities: the webcams showed more than once the weakest runt of the brood starved and trampled to death by its stronger siblings, and footage of a stoat hauling from their nest the corpses of all three offspring of a green woodpecker must have put the entire nation off its supper.
Countryfile (BBC1, Sunday) usually presents — as is right and proper from the secular replacement of Sunday evensong — a rosy picture, but even its presenter admitted that Hampstead Heath’s oak trees could be saved from destruction by foreign invasions of oak processionary moths only by introducing an equally foreign fly whose larvae ate the moths — from inside, alive.
And the final episode of Primates (17 May, BBC1) showed how some Thai Macaque monkeys have learned to shuck oysters, but are steadily eating their way through the entire supply and will then starve. I am delighted finally to see admission that the wide-eyed quasi-theological concept of the natural world as a self-regulating, utterly harmonious entity, ruined only by wicked mankind, is — to use the technical scientific term — utter tosh.
Foreign incursion also animates two new series: in Philharmonia (Channel 4, Sunday of last week), Helene, a striking and brilliant conductor, is, after spending 20 years forging her career in the United States, summoned back to Paris to take over an orchestra. She meets,
of course, sullen non-co-operation, suspicion, and sabotage. Bitter rivalries, sackings, adultery, murder, sexual favours offered for financial salvation: it’s just like the last time your church appointed a new organist.
Being French, it takes all this farrago very seriously, wrapped up in banal philosophising. Being French, it’s extremely stylish, and, for music-lovers, just about watchable.
The First Team (BBC2, Thursdays), being British, plays for laughs. The US incomer Mattie has been signed by mistake by an ailing Premier League team. The squad are ignorant, vain, self-obsessed, incompetent boors. It’s very funny indeed.