TV Preview: On Thin Ice: Nigel Latta in Antarctica

On Thin Ice: Nigel Latta in Antarctica: TV1, 8.30 Wednesday

A PERSONAL VIEW By Doug Coutts

A PERSONAL VIEW
By Doug Coutts

There are certain things we already know about Antarctica. Not only is it the driest place on the planet but also if all that ice melted the new sea level would be 60 metres above the old one. There are no polar bears, or indeed any sort of land mammal, and in terms of land area Antarctica is twice as big as Australia, but not nearly as noisy. The name itself means “opposite end to the Arctic” and is nigh impossible to type quickly without missing the first ‘c’.

Nigel Latta, the man who delves into the minds of our worst criminals and shows us the best way to raise our kids, is heading to the Ice Continent to learn some new facts and put the old ones into context. The context is that Antarctica is more than a natural wonder; it actually holds the key to all our futures.

Episode one, of two, doesn’t quite get there. We learn that you when you’re travelling outside Scott Base you have to carry around a plastic bottle around to pee in. Nigel shows us his bottle – twice – and even pretends to use it. He goes as far to suggest that going “number twos” is even trickier – luckily we have to head off to look at some penguins before he goes too far.

“Look at all the penguins,” Nigel gushes. “There must be gazillions! How many are there?”

“About 20,000,” says Dr Amy Whitehead, the resident expert.

“What kind of parents are they?” Nigel wonders, in his professional capacity as a TV psychologist.

We actually get close to the show’s hypothesis when Dr Amy explains that watching how penguins cope with the environment is important because “if it’s good for penguins it’s probably good for everyone else.” Well, you don’t see penguins peeing in a bottle.

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There are the obligatory sequences of life inside Scott Base – the entrance looks like a fridge door, Nigel says, but in this case the fridge is on the outside – and a helicopter trip across the Dry Valleys where it’s so windy the snow doesn’t get a chance to settle.

We learn that in delivering a piece to camera in a helicopter the tricky part is not delivering your lines, but recording them in a way that makes them able to be heard over the rotor blades.

I’m not sure this is the going to be the definitive series on Antarctica – so far it has the all the punch of an Intrepid Journey.

But it can only get better – the publicity pack reckons that as well as talking with penguins and sleeping outside in a snow trench, Nigel sits on a toilet with the best view of any in the world. If that’s our future, I can’t wait for my plastic bottle to arrive.


Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years.  He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.

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