Wild Arabia

Fri Feb 22, 9-10pm, BBC2

Episode one
Working to BBC Natural History Unit’s now hard-coded template – slo-mo spectacle plus supplementary crew diaries equals nature-show acclaim – the only thing missing from this new three-parter is Attenborough himself. In fact, this arid trek into the Arabian peninsula makes a useful sidebar to the great man’s recent ‘Africa’ odyssey – both geographically and zoologically. Highlights include rodents engaging in vicious aerial combat, ‘Crouching Gerbil, Hidden Hamster’-style; pigment-switching Global Hypercolour lizards; and handsome ibex sporting Bedouin beards (or is it the other way around?).

What’s nice about this is the focus on the human animal, for once accorded equal status with the critters. Bedouin desertfaring traditions are presented not in opposition to the natural order, but as deeply inscribed within it. The man who’s in charge of an oasis, for instance – the Alan McGee of ancient nomadic culture – is filmed manoeuvring through an underground waterway in the same kind of forensic tracking close-up the camera crew might reserve for a crocodile. If this is a taste of the Beeb’s premium nature output without Attenborough, then the Ark’s in good hands. And, although this may still be far from utterable, we’d better get used to it…