Fine posts for 2008

Given that mere popularity doesn’t reflect quality, here’s my personal selection of my best, timeless posts for 2008. Happy reading!

Leaving room for elephants: a chat with David Attenborough

Photograph of David Attenborough, 22 August 1984, by Robin GoodfellowLast night’s final episode of Michael Parkinson‘s long-running TV chat show should have been much better, given the stellar cast. The one stand-out for me was David Attenborough. Something he said reminded me of a conversation we had 24 years ago. I’ll share that episode shortly. But first, here’s the interview we did…

Sir David Attenborough hardly needs an introduction. He was in Australia promoting the TV series and book The Living Planet when I spoke with him. His previous series Life on Earth was the UK’s highest-rating ever at that time. The Living Planet looked to be heading in the same direction.

Attenborough has been a TV producer almost as long as the medium has existed.

From 1965 to 1969 he was Controller of the then-new BBC 2, followed by four years in another executive position. After 8 years behind a desk he decided he’d had enough of computers, accounting and unions, and returned to life as a producer — a decision, he says, that wasn’t hard to make.

I had the good fortune to spend half an hour with Attenborough in his hotel room. I was his ninth interview for the day, and the greying gentleman in his fifties was visibly tired — particularly tired, he said, of being asked questions like “What’s your favourite animal”. But as I set up my equipment we chatted and, once he realised that I knew his work and knew what I was doing, his eyes began to sparkle just like on TV.

Our interview covered conservation, the making of Life On Earth and some remarkably prescient observations about the changing nature of TV programs.

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