Blue Planet II - The very best of the BBC

Surfing bottlenose dolphins featured in the incredible Blue Planet II on BBC1 this week.
Surfing bottlenose dolphins featured in the incredible Blue Planet II on BBC1 this week.
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It has been a central part of British life for almost a century, but the BBC seems to be under attack more than ever. The right thinks it’s a hotbed of leftist luvvies, while the left sees it as an organ of state-sponsored propaganda.

Meanwhile, despite the tug-of-war over its future, the corporation continues to produce spellbinding programmes like Blue Planet II (BBC1, Sundays, 8pm).

Among the incredible stories the programme brought us was the bizarre Kobudai fish, an enormous creature with a face like the Elephant Man, which patrolled the waters off Japan.

Unbelievably, the larger females would take themselves off to a quiet corner, where they would slowly turn into males, ready to propogate their genes.

This year’s equivalent of the racer snakes versus lizards drama, from Living Planet II, was the life or death struggle of fledgling terns, the targets of Trevally fish, who flung themselves six feet clear of the ocean, jaws agape, in an effort to snap up the young birds.

Everything about this show was designed to fulfil the pledge of the first director-general, Lord Reith, to ‘inform, educate and entertain’.

Every image sparkled, the sea glittered, and at every turn there was a moment that made you sit up and say ‘Wait a minute. What?’ .

Uninterrupted by adverts, filmed over long periods of time, made with passion and skill, it was absolutely what the BBC – in its current, licence fee-funded form – does best.

Whatever your view of the BBC, it should be a source of pride that it exists, producing programmes like this.

It may have been a coincidence, but this week’s 999: What’s Your Emergency (Channel 4, Mondays, 9pm) was about crimes with a sexual element. It should at least have made MPs think twice.

I’ve only just caught up with it, but Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me (BBC iPlayer) gripped from the opening few seconds, and was emotionally honest, brave and eye-opening throughout.