Monkey Planet

Dr George McGavin looks like a cross between Richard and David (Attenborough). We’re on first name terms. I can’t help missing the Attenboroughs when I watch a nature programme presented by someone else. But with a white beard and khaki shorts, George had clearly done his very best to dress up as them, so I was prepared to give it a go. Yes I know, Richard is a movie producer, but I still missed him.

This was the first in a three part series about monkeys. Now, before we go any further, I must tell you, monkeys really freak me out. They have human eyes, saucepan lid faces with fur, and they often look angry, or accusatory, or indifferent. Happily, George tells us (and this isn’t verbatim) that no matter how creepy we find them, they are part of our family. Not mine *nervous laugh*. But yours.

Whereas normally I would run a mile from monkeys, off we went around the world with George in search of them.

First it was Orangutans (that’s ‘tans’ not ‘tangs’ – who knew?) in Borneo where we watched the creatures behaving in a ‘human’ way at the edge of a stream. They were sailing in little boats, drinking from cups, washing with soap and writing with pens. Honestly, I was nearly in tears. George proudly enthused, ‘Look! We share a similar face!’ Speak for yourself.

Then, the Tarsier monkey. These have ultrasonic hearing and eyes so wide that you feel like shaking them and saying, ‘What is it?! What’s wrong??’ If you suffer from anxiety, do not look into the face of a Tarsier.

The fluffy, Japanese Macaque lives in a minus 20 degree habitat. To demonstrate how cold that really is, George takes all his clothes off, turns to the camera and says, ‘eventually I’ll go into a coma, from which I’ll never wake up’. George, really that is not necessary. We get it. Put your clothes back on man!

The Chacma Baboon has a face like one of those heavy duty office staplers and while he’s out hunting we sneak into his cave for a look. Bats, spiders, dung, animal skulls – it’s nice. To be fair, he’d probably have smartened up if he knew we were coming.

When visiting a group of monkeys in the jungle, George climbs a tree and hangs from it in canvas bag saying, ‘this is actually very alarming’. George, again, not necessary.

Lar Gibbons have faces a bit like a Scream mask, and also a bit like when you see a homeless man drinking on a bench. Grey, whiskery, rough and sad.

The Aye Aye monkey has ‘the ears of a bat and the tail of a squirrel’. They tap on trees searching for insect lava and then probe it out with a long, spindly finger. Oh my God. Horror.

Most miserable looking monkey of all is the Black Howler. No, that’s not a Hogwarts spell, it’s a monkey. Its face looks like the embalmed corpse of Tutankhamen, and when George makes a (pretty crap) monkey sound up at the tree, it sets the Howlers right off. Again, horror. I think they saved the post-watershed monkeys for the end.

It went on and on. I’m sorry to say there wasn’t one cute or nice looking monkey in the whole thing, although I’m sure all you monkey fans will disagree. Weirdos. Big or small, they all have human eyes. I feel like they’re looking at me. I’m not sure if I can bear episode two.

Monkey Planet airs Wednesdays on BBC1 from 9pm

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