In his now well-known role of narrator of wildlife expeditions, Attenborough accompanies a government-sponsored trek into the central New Guinea highlands to make contact with a group of natives never before seen by Europeans.
To honor their famous host and renown naturalist Sir David Attenborough's 90th birthday, the BBC has re-released David's four favorite programs from his extremely rich and influential career. He gives a short introduction to each of them.
I wasn't quite old enough to appreciate this television programme when it was transmitted, but I viewed the recordings of several episodes in the early 1970s while I was working at Broadcasting House. Also, the archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes (who occasionally served on the panel of this programme) told me about her participation.
The programme's title is misleading: "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?" implies that we're in for a round of Twenty Questions ... and indeed, the Beeb presented this series as if it were a game show or a quiz show. They likely realised that the typical viewer was more interested in light entertainment than in anything educational.
IMDb's outline of this programme is accurate. Each week, a different museum from somewhere in Britain was featured. Each week, artefacts from that museum were presented to a panel of three scientists, who then attempted to identify the items while explaining what clues they used to deduce their conclusions.
I recall being particularly impressed with the contributions of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who generally sat in the panel's centre seat. His crinkle-haired widow's peak gave him a distinctive boffin-ish appearance (his hair was ginger; we were fortunately spared this, since the programme was in monochrome), and he often made witty comments that added a touch of levity to the academic proceedings.
Like Ms Hawkes, Sir Mortimer's speciality was archaeology. In keeping with Britain's rich historic tradition, the programme tended to skew towards historical artefacts rather than palaeontological or zoological specimens ... however, these got a look-in as well, in episodes with an appropriately knowledgeable panel.
A modern incarnation of this series would possibly find a welcome niche market on cable TV, but would be too rarefied for general tastes.
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