Ireland’s Wild River is one of the most enjoyable episodes of PBS’ beloved wildlife series Nature to come along in quite a while. This episode of Nature is such a joy first and foremost because of its approach. There is quite a bit to note on that matter alone. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Nature thanks to the beautiful cinematography. That plays directly into the episode’s approach. One more reason that viewers will enjoy this episode of Nature is its editing. Much like the cinematography, the editing plays directly in to the episode’s overall approach. All three factors together make this episode of Nature one that any viewer should see at least once.
PBS’ Nature has been a hit with viewers for years. That is because of its general approach. It has typically stayed as far as possible from all of the wildlife shows that are based more on personalities (whether on camera or off) than on the animals. Because they focus more on personalities, those same shows take more of an intrusive approach than Nature for lack of better wording. While this episode of Nature actually does have a host of sorts in Colin Stafford-Johnson, he is not the center of attention. Nor does he show any interest in taking center stage. The only time that he is shown is occasionally as he paddles (yes, paddles) along the Shannon. Even his own narration is apart from that of hosts of other wildlife program. That makes this episode even more enjoyable for true nature lovers. His narration isn’t the same high energy approach of so many nature show hosts. Much like the cinematography and companion editing of this episode, Stafford-Johnson’s own narration is low-key and non-intrusive. He takes the angle more of a full-on observer than the standard host that goes in and grabs everything in sight, trying to stay in the camera. It’s one part of the episode’s approach that makes the episode such a joy.
Host Colin Stafford-Johnson’s hands off, observer style approach to Ireland’s Wild River is just one part of what makes this episode of Nature so enjoyable for lovers of any wildlife programming on television. Another, more subtle aspect of the episode’s approach that makes it so enjoyable is in how Stafford-Johnson made his way along the Shannon River. Whereas shows like River Monsters and others are so quick to use motorized boats because they make the show more “sexy” for viewers, Stafford-Johnson gently paddles along in a canoe. It’s a nice change of pace. It shows that Stafford-Johnson isn’t trying to present that same spit-shined, “sexy” appearance of those other shows. And it shows a true reverence for the wildlife along the river, too. He is showing that he doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the wildlife. This is such a welcome alternative to what audiences are accustomed to seeing from nature shows. It makes the episode’s overall approach all the more entertaining for audiences.
The approach taken by Stafford-Johnson and those responsible for the final product here resulted in what is one of the series’ best episodes so far in 2014. That work is not all that makes this episode so enjoyable. Just as important to the overall enjoyment factor is the combined cinematography and editing used for the final product. The shots of Stafford-Johnson paddling gently along the river, and sitting in his canoe among the reeds create such a sense of serenity. There are no overdone pans setting him against the backdrop of the river or other unnecessary flourishes. It’s just straight forward camera work. In terms of flourishes, audiences will like the high speed photography capturing in flight, the many birds that populate the Shannon. Even here, it isn’t overdone. This effect is used just enough to add a little extra “oomph” to the program. And the editing used to transition from one bird to the next adds even more of that feeling. Just as worth noting is one specific moment in which a shot of a bird on a reed fades to a show of Stafford-Johnson’s silhouette against the setting sun in the sky. Given, it’s a standard edit effect. But it’s the only time that audiences see this effect used, too. Simply put the editing and cinematography are minimized just as much as Stafford-Johnson’s time on camera. There’s no over the top anything here. Everything is balanced just right throughout the course of the program. In the end it’s that balance makes Ireland’s Wild River one of the best episodes of PBS’ Nature yet.
Ireland’s Wild River is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=31134566&cp=&sr=1&kw=irelands+wild+river&origkw=Ireland%27s+Wild+River&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.