Did we like it?
While the natural beauty of the unspoilt landscapes flows into the eyes like a running glacier and the history of the bleak wilderness intrigues, there’s something horribly derivative about it as if Coast has given birth to a reptilian skinned homunculus whose misshapen hands claw voraciously at the new day.
What was good about it?
• The beautiful scenery of the mountains of north west Scotland. But a programme called Mountain was always going to feature beautiful scenery, unless such a mountain erupted in the middle of Swindon. In which case the ensuing volcanic carnage would give the town a ‘makeover’ that would put even make Nicky Hambleton Jones gasp.
• At the top of the various peaks, Griff and the camera would gaze out in awe at the soft-quilted white landscapes, and verily they were all stunning.
• Although the history lessons were anticipated to colour in the lovely vistas, they at least were intellectually illuminating as Griff recounted the cleansing of Sutherland as the inhabitants were evicted by the landowners to make way for sheep in a policy as heinously callous as ITV1’s eradication of intelligent viewers from its programmes to replace them, also with sheep.
• The narrative is rather mechanical but the gentle pacing and often interesting pieces make this bearable, pleasurable even. The sequence will begin with some gorgeous shots of mountains; then Griff will do a piece to camera; followed by a chat with one of the residents; a little bit of history; back to the mountain scenery with perhaps some clouds rolling imperiously across the glinting azure skies; Griff again etc.
• Griff joining in a Gallic lesson at a Skye primary school where his pathetic attempts to pronounce the names of the nearby Cuilins Mountains offer a welcome comic interlude.
• The sorry tale of the affable John Macleod, chief of the Macleod clan who have owned much of the land on the Isle of Skye since the late 13th century but who now has to sell the Cuilins Mountains to fund the £19.2m refurbishment of his castle. Sadly, John died earlier this year before his dreams could be realised.
What was bad about it?
• Griff sometimes appears to be doubling as a tourist guide for the chattering classes of London who have become intoxicated with urban mania and because of their insipid imaginations yearn for a rustic wilderness of ice and rock as a contrast to their suburban cocoon of metal and brick.
• “This is the sort of country where a four-wheel drive is a way of life not a fashion accessory,” Griff warned of the frigid wastes of Sutherland almost leaning through the TV screen and peering into the glazed eyes of the residents of Kensington as they grip their hot coffees to their breasts.
• Or: “It would take 14 hours to drive from London”, and “There are more people in one square mile of London than in Sutherland’s 2,000 square miles”. Griff seems unaware that viewers live further-a-field than the capital, or maybe following his trek round the inhospitable regions of the UK that everywhere outside London is just a heathen cesspit of unrestrained savagery that needs a BBC mission to civilise it.
• And he couldn’t resist using a mind-crushingly Scottish stereotype when he uttered: “What sort of a Braveheart would step forward to buy the Cuilins?” If one of the most educated men in TV has resorted to thumbing through the Hollywood version of The History of the World, what hope is there for the future?
• With Coast, the team can delve into local legend, acts of heroism and quirky chronicles and illustrate their stories with a wide cast of characters. In Sutherland, the land is so sparsely populated that it seemed Griff spoke to just about everyone who lived there – there were the two jaunty post mistresses, a laconic post bus driver and an artist who carved ‘art’ from the local surroundings. All pleasant in their own way, but in Coast they would have been garrotted in the edit suite as soon as the film was delivered for assembly.
• The mountain scenery can get a little bit dull no matter how impressive it is on first viewing or how often the camera swoops about the peaks to give the impression of a keen eagle. Coast has visceral shots of crashing waves on rocks with seabirds circling above that somehow always appear different and more vital. While, after the initial gloss has worn off, views from mountains are eye-wearying glimpses of snow-covered amorphous valleys or panoramas of dreary rock-filled landscapes with only the odd tuft of greenery to break the mundanity in much the same way that the ace Dermot O’Leary spans the mediocrity of Big Brother Seven (or is it Eight?).
• The next couple of years will see geographically uninspired series such as Forest, River, Field, Valley, Inlet, Island, Marsh, Copse and Diana in which a horde of brainwashed Daily Express readers stamp about England tracing every last footstep the people’s princess took on God’s Earth.