Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Inside the Animal Mind

Chris Packham goes Inside the Animal Mind.

Chris Packham ponders pets’ profundity (but not in person)

TV Preview: Inside the Animal Mind | TV1, 7.30 Saturday


By Doug Coutts

Animals don’t receive and process information the same way – that’s something that humans might find hard to understand.

That’s what the producers of Inside the Animal Mind hope anyway. Sadly, there’s nothing very new, startling, surprising or even informative here – anyone who spends just three hours a day clicking links to YouTube videos on Facebook will know all this and possibly more.

The narrator certainly sounds as if he’s seen it all before. You can almost hear him shuffling the pages of the script to see how long until the end, he sounds that bored. Where’s Richard Hammond? This is the thought of light puffery that he excels at.

Mind you, he’s a bit out of favour at the BBC. That’s right – this is a BBC Natural History production. It’s starting to look like they’ve got a production line churning out CGI pap with no substance while they wait for Attenborough to come up with something good.

Possibly the most remarkable bit was how they train dogs to stick their heads in an MRI scanner – in much the same way they train TV presenters, with endless repetition and snacks.

Just as Hollywood sends its dreck to DVD without troubling theatre owners, perhaps the BBC should consider putting stuff like this straight on YouTube and save its free-to-air network for the worthwhile stuff. If there’s any of that around these days.

What other critics said:

“It’s fascinating, all of it – just the right blend of science and spectacle. And Packham is an excellent guide, serious without being boring or schoolteacherly. A rare sight on these shores – a wildlife person with a bit of an edge – he puts the cool in cagoule.” — The Guardian.

“Packham registered the right blend of scientific knowledge and sheer wonderment at the alien senses of animals.” — Daily Mail.

“It’s hard not to like Packham. His unrepentant Morrissey-fan haircut and depth of naturalist knowledge both help, but more than anything it’s just his relentless enthusiasm for animals. Whenever you see him on a nature programme he always seems genuinely delighted to be there.” — The Times.

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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4 Responses to “Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Inside the Animal Mind”

  1. I’d just like to point out that in the preview copy I saw, Chris Packham only appears once – in a wideshot for about 2 seconds about 16 minutes in, and doesn’t say anything. I suspect we’re seeing a truncated version of the original with all the presenter’s on-camera bits removed to bring the duration down to the 42-minute TVNZ commercial hour. And that would explain the other reviewers going crazy over his haircut.

  2. Thanks, Doug. It does sound suspiciously like the bad old Blackadder days of 25 years ago, when TVNZ used to cut chunks out of British content to make it fit their commercial half-hours or hours (which now are even “shorter”).

  3. As suspected, TVNZ has confirmed it cut the programme to fit the slot. But this didn’t stop the broadcaster from promoting the series as if its “invisible” presenter had marquee value. If you want to see the unexpurgated version (albeit in VHS quality), Doug unearthed the original full-length broadcast on YouTube (, where it has a running time of 49m27s — roughly 7m longer than what you’ll see on Saturday.

  4. This is kind of typical of NZ TV networks.When Prime used to cut down UK Top Gear to fit the NZ hour I started to download it from Channel Internet but after lots of complaints they showed the full version. Not sure what TV3 does with them as I’m not interested in the repeats that they are currently running. Same applies to Project Runway, which in the US is 63 minutes without ads but TV3 when they had it cut it to 42 minutes.

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