Easter TV Preview: Secret Life of Cats

Secret Life of Cats: TV1, 7.00 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

Secret Life of Cats – not as you’d think a nine-part series but a one-off in a much larger ITV set of documentaries – is narrated in hushed reverential tones by Martin Clunes, once an actor but now mostly a TV host and voiceover guy.

He’s a very good host and voiceover guy – better in fact than many. You can tell he’s good because it sounds like he’s written the script himself (he hasn’t) and like he really loves cats (which he might but then he did do a series on dogs a while ago and studies have shown you’re either a dog person or a cat person).

Martin introduces some interesting cats along with fascinating cat facts. (Try voiceovering that in a hurry…)

For example, in a sort of reverse feline Jesuit philosophy, if a kitten is denied human contact for the first eight weeks of its life, it will be largely feral and difficult to domesticate – which also explains the Australian cricket team.

Blind cats are able to find their way around the place, even climbing trees, in the way blind dogs can’t, thanks largely to more efficient whiskers and an attitude.

And cats do manage to land on their feet after falling – from 19 storeys up in one case – while looking extremely cool doing it in slow-motion.

That – the looking cool part – comes as no surprise because the show is produced by Oxford Scientific Films, who have done all sorts of video magic over the years for the likes of Attenborough and have currently a large portfolio featuring honeybadgers, Stonehenge, hippos and … the weather with Richard Hammond. Oh well, can’t win them all.

They definitely have a winner with Secret Life of Cats, though – think of it as a collection of the world’s best youtube cat videos but in hi-def, with well-researched facts and a very good voiceover guy. You may never look at your cat in the same way again – but, like, it’s going to care.

What other critics said:

“These tales were sweet but did they really justify narrator Martin Clunes’s talk of ‘a super-normal sense’ and ‘awe-inspiring’ qualities? I don’t think so. Clunes hyped his feline friends so much I felt let-down that the cats didn’t sprout capes after the umpteenth declaration of their other-worldly powers.” — The Telegraph.

“A BBC2 Horizon programme with the same title was broadcast this time last year, but this was far more interesting and informative, and featured some truly charismatic felines. Even inveterate cat lovers could learn from this documentary, as slow-motion pictures demonstrated a cat’s agility and explained why their tongues feel like sandpaper.” — Daily Mail.

“The documentary showcases remarkable stories, including how one moggie saved a couple from a gas explosion, the cat who survived falling from a 19th floor flat, and the surprising relationship between a blind Labrador and the feline friend who acts as his guide. At no point is this balanced with a description of the ruination they can foist on your stair carpet.” — The Sentinel.

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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