It may be seen as something of ‘guilty pleasure’ given the target audience are probably about half my age, but The Deadly 60 is without a doubt one of the best things on the television at the moment.
The programme’s premise is pretty self-explanatory, host Steve Backshall –who, a quick search of google tells me, is as beloved by lonely house wives as 50 Shades of Grey – scours all four corners of the earth in search of the sixty most deadly animals on the planet, each week adding one or two to the burgeoning collection of predators that make up ‘The Deadly 60’.
When a friend introduced the programme to me, I was sceptical. As someone for whom an away day up north is as intrepid as it gets, I generally regard the outdoorsman with a mixture of contempt and suspicion, an untrustworthy and potentially unhinged lunatic. That alpha male, judging one’s merit as a man based on the ability to pitch a tent, start a fire, and wear Berghaus has never been a bit of me and as such I always secretly hoped Steve Irwin would be eaten by a crocodile or Bear Grylls would choke to death on his own piss.
Equally I’d always found adults engaging in children’s pop culture a bit weird. Whether it be sneering at grown men and women who read Harry Potter on the tube, or not laughing along with those who enjoy Rastamouse ironically, I’d long considered myself above it.
However, with Backshall there is none of this faux macho nonsense of my first concern and thus when he’s swimming with a hippopotamus, there’s no unspoken desire to see the animal rip through him with its giant teeth, when the bullet ant crawls across his hand you’re not praying for it to sting. No, at the heart of Backshall’s presenting isn’t a desire to show how hard or mental he is, but a heartfelt desire to impart a genuine understanding of the animals of his ‘Deadly 60’ to the children (students, unemployed and frustrated mums) watching.
Furthermore, he has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of zoology which takes it above and beyond just a children’s TV programme and more like Attenborough-lite for people who don’t want to sit through an hour of Planet Earth, and for that reason it is truly compelling viewing.
By Callum West