Magazine article The Spectator

We Do Care

Magazine article The Spectator

We Do Care

Article excerpt

Something bothered me about the BBC's trendy new eco-drama series Nature Boy (BBC 2, Monday) but I didn't work out what it was until about ten minutes into the second episode. Up to that point, I had been very much enjoying it because for all its faults - which I'll come to in a second - it included many of the things which always go down rather nicely in one's living-room on an otherwise dull Monday evening. Like: dirty little slapper schoolgirls saying: 'You can **** me if you want'; car chases, explosions, wanton drug use and mindless violence; achingly gorgeous shots of windswept beaches, sunrises and grazing deer; urban sleaze, dysfunctional families and classroom tension; appalling cruelty and satifisfyingly dire revenge. And all accompanied by a fetching soundtrack featuring the likes of Nick Drake, Pulp and Beth Orton. The plotline wasn't bad either. It's about a sensitive, introverted 16-year-old foster child called David (handsomely played by Lee Ingleby), who seeks solace from his squalid home and the brutalities of the schoolyard in the beauteous surrounds of the nature reserve at Barrow-in-Furness. By the end of the first episode, he has been cast out of this Eden and heads off to find his long-lost father on a journey which will take him from the industrial wastes of Middlesbrough, through the Midlands (where he gets to hang out with some eco-warriors) and finally into the orchards of Kent. Befriending lots of cute furry animals en route, one imagines, because, hey, that's why they call him Nature Boy.

Now you might not have guessed this from my sophisticated metropolitan manner but I'm a bit of a Nature Boy myself. I get it from my father who used to be a world champion guppy breeder and I grew up surrounded by tropical fish, amphibians and reptiles like David, our six-foot boa constrictor, and Bathsheba, his nine-foot girlfriend. When I was little, we used to travel all over the world catching rare specimens; we were also quite heavily into bird-watching - not here, where, let's face it, twitching is a bit of a saddo's hobby, but in places like Kenya.

Anyway the point of that autobiographical detail - apart from the fact that it's been ages since I told you anything about myself and I'm a bit worried I'm dwelling too much on the TV aspect of this job - is that it's quite possible to be as big a libertarian and reactionary as I am and still believe that nature is generally lovely and worth preserving. And the annoying thing about Nature Boy is that I don't think it recognises such nice distinctions.

You can see this in the crude oppositions it sets up between the characters who love nature (Nature Boy, his eco-warrior girlfriend, the shy schoolboy with horrid middle-class parents etc. …

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