Planet Earth II a form of therapy for viewers, says Attenborough

Veteran broadcaster says blockbuster BBC nature show offers audiences respite from their concerns about the world

Millions of people are tuning into the BBC’s nature series Planet Earth II because they crave a respite from their concerns about the future of the planet, Sir David Attenborough has said.

The documentary series, which is narrated by the veteran broadcaster, has attracted up to 10.6 million viewers on BBC1, rivalling the numbers tuning in to watch blockbuster hits Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.

In a piece for this week’s Radio Times, Attenborough writes that the programme’s viewers “are reconnecting with a planet whose beauty is blemished, whose health is failing, because they understand that our own wellbeing is inextricably linked to that of the planet’s”. The relationship, he says, is a form of “two-way therapy”.

The presenter compares the enormous audience figures to those of the previous BBC nature series Blue Planet, which premiered on 12 September 2001, the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Its audiences far exceeded expectations, Attenborough writes, because “as a nation we craved refuge from the horror and uncertainty”.

Sir David Attenborough,.
Sir David Attenborough said audiences were ‘reconnecting with a planet whose beauty is unblemished’. Photograph: David Parry/PA

He believes Planet Earth II is “tapping into a similar sentiment”. “Of course, there is no single appalling catalyst as there was in 2001, but our concerns for the world, the confusion we have about its direction of travel, are every bit as great.”

He notes that the original Planet Earth series, broadcast in 2006, is estimated to have been watched by half a billion people worldwide. “We are hopeful that this series will be seen by as many, if not more.”

Attenborough acknowledges that other factors have contributed to the series’ popularity, including advances in filming technology that have allowed unprecedented access to wildlife.

The broadcaster, 90, also credits the series score, written by the Oscar-winning movie composer Hans Zimmer, for attracting more viewers aged between 16 and 35 than The X Factor. “That pleases me enormously,” writes Attenborough.

Zimmer, who composed the soundtracks for Gladiator, The Lion King, the Dark Knight trilogy and many other films, has said of Planet Earth II: “What the series does so extraordinarily and importantly is to draw us humans into this world which we … must comprehend. What [Attenborough] has been doing has now more relevance than ever before. The truly remarkable thing is that all fiction pales in comparison to the reality [he has] shown us.”


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

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