August 28, 2008

Martin’s Gone to Dogs With His Canine Capers ; Martin Clunes: A Man And His Dog STV, Saturday

By Paul English

SOMEONE at stv obviously hadn't changed the intelligence settings after The X Factor. Before Martin Clunes' film about mutts, the station's announcer was still addressing the sort of audience who think "canine" is a good name for a boy band.

The patronising voice said: "And now on stv, did you know a dog's genetic make-up is similar to that of a wolf? Me neither."

Granted, there are a lot of people out there with the IQ of a minty fresh breath, but come on - one year-old babies can point at pictures of wolves or Anne Robinson and say "woof, woof".

Aside from the pre-school introduction, Clunes' film about man's best friend - a dogumentary, if you'll forgive me - wasn't really about one man and his mutts.

It was a travel show, an adventure show, a wildlife show and a freakshow. Martin helicoptered into Yellowstone Park, USA on the hunt for wolves.

He flew Down Under on the hunt for dingoes, the "missing link" between wolves and the genetic offshoot we've domesticated to bring our paper, chase sticks and eat homework.

He joined a pack of wolves in Dorset as they devoured a deer and spoke to an ever so slightly barking man who lives as one of them.

Martin seemed as surprised as stv's "voice" when he made the discovery that Yellowstone's wolves, amazingly, had "wolfy hair" and behaved in ways which, he said breathlessly, were "a bit doggy".

Meanwhile, the eerie sound of the pack howling in the hills rang out right on cue. Or perhaps it was the ghosts of Barbara Woodhouse and Desmond Morris coming to haunt Martin as he tried doggedly to turn an ITV jolly into something more than just apoint-and-gawp tourist experience.

Having travelled to Oz to visit the world's purest strain of dingo on Fraser Island, our Man Behaving Badly discovered a dug behaving madly - a dingo named Dinky who had been successfully tamed by his "owner" to sing along when he played the piano.

And now back to Esther Rantzen in the studio... What next? Dinky dingo plays bingo?

Having seen how man has bred dogs to suit his purpose - and how some Australians have tried to turn them into Shirley Bassey - Martin caught up with a team of "ratting" Jack Russells.

Their job as ratters was not to tell tales, but to catch small mammals who had them.

And they did - a bucketload of vermin lay twitching by the end of agenetically-honed-to-precision hunting spree.

Bloodsport on Saturday night TV. Controversial for rat fans, but still better entertainment than The XFactor.

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