MacIntyre: Edge of Existence, Five

by | May 29, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A programme in which Donal MacIntyre provided another glimpse into his profoundly uninteresting character through a largely pointless escapade to allow the Insect Tribe of Papua New Guinea to have the privilege of meeting him.

What was good about it?

• The sub-title (which had to pay generous homage to ‘MacIntyre’) was ‘edge of existence’ and this is pretty much where Donal’s career has been for the past couple of years.

• There were elements of the Insect Tribe’s life that were undeniably fascinating, but Donal stomped so clumsily over them that rather than be enlightened to a fast-disappearing way of life, we were treated to a crass celluloid interpretation of Mr Bean Goes Native.

• While crocodile hunting, Donal repeated Natalie Appleton’s hilarious terror at touching a tree. Talking to the camera, Donal suddenly jerked his head to the right, wailing, “Woah!” before glancing fearfully at his supposed reptilian assailant, “It’s a reed!”

What was bad about it?

• The desperate efforts to convince everyone that he, Donal MacIntyre, had travelled to the very fringes of human existence (“The preconception is of cannibals and a stone-age tribe”) were soon blown out of the water by the names of the tribes people – Emma, James, Christina and Alfonse.

• This was risibly confirmed when Donal informed us that when the tribe went to hunt for wild boar that his “fellow hunters are dressed in traditional style to honour their spirits”. We’re not sure just how long these traditions have existed for, but given that one tribesman donned a pair of knee-length surf shorts we guessing that the origins of this particular tradition aren’t lost in the depths of antiquity.

• The hunt also highlighted the fact that the programme was all about Donal and less about the Insect Tribe. Rather than marvel at the wildlife, Donal sought to demonise it. The pigs being hunted were “400 pounds of pure muscle that charges through the forest impaling any victim that gets in its way.” Really? And these giant pigs “charge through the forest” in this whirlwind of belligerence all day long rather than passively grazing until being disturbed by a giant Irishman wielding a spear with all the dexterity of a hammerhead shark teeing off at Wentworth?

• His unwillingness to embrace the culture of the Insect Tribe was also manifested in the crocodile hunt when Donal was too busy telling us about how the beasts can grow to 23 feet in length in “one of the largest crocodile populations on the planet”. If this is one of the largest then crocodiles are in greater peril than we thought from extinction as even “the best crocodile hunters in the world” could only catch a tiddler and a crocodile they would reject from I’m A Celebrity for not being fierce enough. Two captures that made his earlier exaggeration that this “creature could rip you to shreds in seconds” even more absurd.

• The crocodile hunt had already become a farce after Donal tried to present it as a crucial element of Insect Tribe life that remains untainted by civilisation, until he revealed that the skins of the crocodiles “fetch high prices from the fashion market”. So rather than being an enraptured curator of a disappearing way of tribal life, he was an accessory to the creation of the latest Dolce & Gabbana spring/summer collection.

• Further evidence that Donal was not at the ‘edge of existence’ but among a group of people whose long-established way of living had been corrupted beyond repair (possibly by the frequent visits of inquisitive film crews), was provided when he expressed his terror during the crocodile hunt to the laidback Alfonse. “No worries, mate,” came the reply, as if Donal was seeking reassurance after he’d just put a half-cooked sausage in his mouth at an Adelaide barbecue.

• The saddest part was when Donal seemed pleased that the Insect Tribe had forsaken their previous habits of headhunting and warring with neighbouring tribes. While neither is a particularly pleasant pursuit, each at least offered a glimmer of identity, of a hope that their way of life could continue. Instead the tribesmen now play their own version of Bullseye with bows and arrows dressed in cheap facsimiles of civilised clothes such as T-shirts and sports shorts. Of course, noble Donal took the only action he could possibly muster to ensure that the Insect Tribe remains as independent from ‘civilisation’ as he can – he invited them to London.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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