Thursday, 29 July 2010

Penguin Island

I sat down this morning with a heady mix of excitement and delirium, as I had just received news of a television show. Now, I didn’t have anything other than the title to go on, so I frantically searched iPlayer while idly imagining what the show would entail. After all, a name like Penguin Island inspires this in any reasonable, right-thinking man.

Disappointingly, however, Penguin Island, is not, as the name suggests, a blatant rip-off of the Orwell classic, Animal Farm, except this time with Penguins and a complex allegory about the pitfalls of a capitalist society, with Gordon Brown played by a penguin named Scott, Lehman Brothers bank played by a group of daredevil risk-taking penguins named, as a troupe, The Wings, and society’s gradual demise and collapse represented by the slow melting of the icecaps. Nor is it, in fact, a brief Batman-based spin-off, finally giving Penguin his own television show with an island he has bought with his copious amounts of crime money, only to be foiled by Batman in his plans to hold Russian missiles just off the coast of America (Oh, a Cuban missile crisis joke? How topical am I?). It is, sadly, neither of these things, and is in actuality, a show about penguins. Who live on an island. Tell me if you can’t follow this.

Anyways, the very precisely and teutonically accurately named Penguin Island is ostensibly a show about penguins, but to be honest, it’s taken the Meerkat Manor (Remember those heady days of television greatness?) approach, and turned it to penguins. So it’s a curious penguin-based soap opera as narrated by Rolf Harris, who is casually sidling in to sully David Attenborough’s unmatched excellence (And by extension, the BBC’s Natural History unit) with his voiceovers.

It features a star-studded cast, of Rocky, a typical telegenic penguin. And Spike, who is near identical. And Bluey, who is also pretty similar. And Sheila, a doppelganger for EVERY OTHER PENGUIN. Seriously, if you’re not a pretty serious devotee of penguins like Marg, who looks after the orphaned penguins and tells them apart by name (“Every penguin I’ve ever met has a different character, heehee”), you will just have to trust Rolf Harris’ voiceover. Which, being as it’s Rolf Harris, I would trust less than the Yorkshire Ripper upon finding him in a specialist hammer shop going “I’ll need four. I’m going to do a lot of…nailing”.

So we see Spike have sex with Tash. And then Tash, filthy little penguin slag that she is, runs off to frolic with Rocky. A fight ensues between Rocky and Spike, and after a certain point Tash comes out and starts hitting them both. This could only be more British if a bloke called Brian was holding Rocky back going “Leave ‘im Rocky! He ain’t wurf it!” They couldn’t make the show more like a soap opera if they revealed one of the penguins was an alcoholic mate-beating penguin.

This is a soap opera masquerading as a documentary, much like the penguin is a bird masquerading as a fish. However, while the penguin pulls this off with admirable aplomb, the docu-soap is atrocious.

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