"Look at that fantastic tiger!"
Most television presenters would make abysmal teachers. They tell us what we can already see, as if we're not watching television but crouching underneath it. On Animal Park recently I learned that "it's harder to see hippos at night." Amazing!
Unlike teachers, TV presenters are protected from the reactions of their audience. They think, "We're so lovably passionate about this - facts would only spoil the fun!" I don't need Alan Titchmarsh's frothing cliches about "natchrel wunda". Come on. Tell me something I can't see. Otherwise, just go away and let me listen to the hedgehogs.
Cliches are not the problem with Dr Iain Stewart and his new BBC2 series, Earth: The Power of the Planet. He did make me grateful to volcanoes for what they do. But the rock doc is like a newly qualified teacher who stresses, every, word! His overstuffed lessons are exhausting, all swoopy shots and pumpy music. The whole thing is like an advert for Earth. Why? What's the competition? I think the volcano in the background was trying to give him some advice. Maybe "KshooOO! Flup, flup," means "Chill, my friend - less is more," in lava.
Worse than trying too hard in a teacher is hypocrisy. Pupils can smell it, and they'd sniff it straight away on Nigella Express (BBC2). She says "cooking isn't about applause" then films her friends applauding her. She claims to be at "stress o'clock" while cooing from her studio kitchen about how "eeeasy it is to be herrr". She calls a pudding beautiful when it looks like dog barf mixed with sand.
Even worse, Nigella's teaching is bad for us: that fatty gloop is an artery-buggering time bomb. In just two minutes you can treble your risk of heart disease! Nigella is a culinary suicide bomber, blowing herself up and taking us with her. At least Jamie Oliver zooms around reforming things, like a latter-day Victorian philanthropist. Nigella couldn't give a roast duck if her pupils live or die, as long as they adore her. How shallow is that? David Attenborough is the only known antidote to such self-worship. Great teachers bear witness to something greater than themselves. Attenborough has a completely outward-looking sense of wonder and a calm gift for imparting knowledge, without distortion or stating the bloody obvious.
As for Nigella-style self-promotion, can you imagine Attenborough bringing out The David Range of outdoor clothing? Yet his life is enviable - he has travelled to more places than any other man in history. Next to that, fellating carrots in a fake kitchen looks a bit sad.
Anyway, the animals are fed up with being patronised and the BBC tiger has escaped. Preview tapes were unavailable, but in the Nigella Christmas Special, the tiger breaks into her fake house and eats her. Then it raises one eyebrow at the camera and drawls, 'How easy was that?' The tiger is now in talks for its own television series.
OK, I might have made some of this up. But if even some of this is true, it's progress.
Catherine Paver, Writer and part-time teacher of English.