CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Twitcher Jim should focus on his birds and stop flying around
Painting Birds With Jim and Nancy Moir (Sky Arts) ***
Chimp Empire (Netflix) ****
Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer rarely talk any more. The double act has broken up, so permanently that Vic no longer exists — the actor Jim Moir has ditched his comic alter ego.
What caused the split, they’re not saying. As recently as 2019, they were still doing their relaunched Big Night Out on BBC4.
But now, Jim says he’s turned down all offers for a reunion, and the pair don’t even speak on the phone. Maybe it hasn’t helped that Bob, always the sidekick in the duo, landed a hit series with Gone Fishing.
That would certainly explain the rationale behind Painting Birds With Jim And Nancy Moir (Sky Arts), which is really Gone Twitching.
Bird-watcher Jim travels the country with his wife of 20 years, former model and I’m A Celebrity contestant Nancy Sorrell. They go in search of unusual species to study and capture on canvas, starting with curlews on the Aln Estuary in Northumberland.
Bird-watcher Jim Moir travels the country with his wife of 20 years, former model and I’m A Celebrity contestant Nancy Sorrell
There are the makings of a feelgood format here, if Jim will only focus on the birds and stop ricocheting around
‘It’s Britain’s biggest wading bird,’ said Jim, like a gameshow host announcing tonight’s star prize. Vic Reeves may be dead but he won’t stay buried.
Painting Birds fails to achieve the bucolic bliss of Gone Fishing, because it refuses to relax. Sitting in a hide with an expert on waterfowl, Jim didn’t even pretend to listen. Instead, he was peering around the box with his binoculars, only paying attention when the cameraman spotted a peregrine falcon.
He’s happier when it’s just him and Nancy. Driving across the causeway at low tide to the isle of Lindisfarne, he warned her they might have to spend the night there, cut off by the sea.
‘We could get stranded there?’ Nancy demanded. ‘I haven’t bought my pyjamas.’ That drew a dirty chuckle from Jim.
If they had stayed longer, watching the seals and the eider ducks, the show might have been more satisfying. But it kept jumping around. One minute Jim was in his studio at home in Kent, pleading with Nancy for biscuits while he drew a curlew.
Then they were cutting out paper bird silhouettes at a museum in Berwick-upon-Tweed, or teaching actor Mark Benton which way round to hold a paintbrush.
Mark claimed he’d barely thought about art since leaving school, which is odd because we saw him drawing landscapes with pal Robson Green earlier this year, on BBC2’s Weekend Escapes.
There are the makings of a feelgood format here, if Jim will only focus on the birds and stop ricocheting around. He also needs to get himself some waterproofs. A safari suit on the beach isn’t very practical. Within ten minutes, his turn-ups were soggy.
The wildlife unit filming Chimp Empire (Netflix) had all the right kit. This dramatic study of the biggest chimpanzee troupe ever discovered, with more than 120 animals in the forest of Ngogo in Uganda, is shot in ultra-high definition, giving it the look of a Hollywood superhero movie.
Chimps swagger towards the camera in slow-mo, the picture so crisp and sharp that every bristling hair is visible. Drops of water fall and explode like glass balloons, and the butterflies seem as big as hang-gliders.
The close-ups in Chimp Empire are so vivid that you can almost feel the warmth of the animals’ breath. Impressive, and not a little scary.
True Detective’s Mahershala Ali supplies the narration, his voice deep and powerful enough to make the speakers buzz.
But he doesn’t offer much information, and some segments feel overlong because we’re not told enough about the behaviour we are watching.
All the same, the close-ups are so vivid that you can almost feel the warmth of the animals’ breath. Impressive, and not a little scary.
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