Who'll be the next David Attenborough?


Written by Hatti Whitman
28 Monday 28th November 2011

Nature is majestic and brutal and fascinating. I know this because David Attenborough, in his capacity as omniscient narrator of about fifty percent of all decent nature documentaries ever made, told me (and about 200 other people) at a recent BAFTA screening of his latest project with Sky. Attenborough also admitted that the animal he would most like to be is a sloth, so maybe it's time that he sat back and had a break from saying majestic every five minutes. With this in mind, Don't Panic went on a voyage into the deepest wildernesses of Youtube to see if we could discover a worthy successor.

Randall’s Wild World of Animals

Youtube sensation and champion of the Honey Badger, Randall’s videos feature his extraordinarily camp and surprisingly fact-heavy commentary. The words ‘EEWW’ and ‘NASTY’ recur frequently, but Randall’s insights on the activities of various species are not to be missed. Viewers are also being encouraged to vote ‘Honey Badger Party’ in the 2012 US election. You have been warned.

Likelihood of becoming the next Attenborough: 4/10 - lacking the gravitas of Big Dave, and probably too busy due to campaigning commitments

Birds of Britain

You may have caught some of Look Around You’s other educational videos over the course of your internet travels, but ‘Birds of Britain’ is definitely among the best of the cult show’s 1970s-style spoof documentaries. In soothing, Attenborough-esque tones, Peter Serafinowicz introduces the viewer to such little-known species as the Backskipper and the Upside-down Pigeon, and reveals the astonishing truth about Robins’ artistic skills.

Likelihood of becoming the next Attenborough: 7/10 - doesn't have the depth of most of Attenborough’s voiceovers, but with a bit of work the team could probably produce a worthy successor

Big Train

One of the most memorable sequences of this cult TV show featured the rarely-filmed interaction of wild jockeys and their natural predator, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, with a spookily Attenborough-esque turn from Simon Pegg as narrator.

Likelihood of becoming the next Attenborough: 9/10 - has Simon Pegg ever been approached by the BBC’s nature team? The script shows clear attention to Attenborough’s style and the register is spot-on.

Tooth and Claw

Weston Biggerstaff is what happens when Ron Burgundy meets David Attenborough. Weston has to deal with the frequent interruptions of his director and/or his mobile phone, revealing rather too many details of his personal life as he tries to offer his insights on animals as varied as caterpillars (‘nature’s moustache’) and Walruses. You can read Weston's biography here.

Likelihood of becoming the next David Attenborough: 6/10 - little of Attenborough’s professionalism and knowledge is on show here, but Biggerstaff has a commanding enough vocal presence. 

Morgan Freeman / Oprah Winfrey

Attenborough's arch-nemesis Morgan Freeman took a potshot at his nature-documentary-crown when he lent his gravelly tones to 2005's March of the Penguins. It was a dastardly and underhand move, but so far Attenborough remains unshaken from his position as top dog. Attenborough, speaking at the BAFTA Institute in London last week, made some thinly veiled comments in which he described how he "shrink[s] from anthropomorphism" because it's soppy. Take that, Freeman. In the UK, that is. The US, however, has no respect for the big man and, in a move that sent shockwaves around the globe, Life was broadcast on the Discovery Channel with Oprah Winfrey narrating. 

Likelihood of becoming the next David Attenborough: 2/10 - stick to your day jobs, guys. 

Stewart Lee

An underdog contender whose acerbic style probably wouldn't make him a hit with primetime BBC viewers, comedian Stewart Lee did however have some choice comments to make about March of the Penguins, and sent it up brilliantly with his own documentary about Morgan Freeman, narrated by a penguin. It’s a bit off the wall, but Lee’s deadpan style could make it work.

Likelihood of becoming the next David Attenborough: 1/10 - knows a lot about mallards, but the Beeb would be unlikely to pick him as Attenborough's replacement. 

Frozen Planet is showing on BBC1 at the moment and is available on iPlayer. The Bachelor King, David Attenborough and Atlantic Productions' follow up to last year's Flying Monsters, will be shown on Sky 3D in late December.

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