The stunning aerial shots swooping over the Great Barrier Reef and the equally beautiful underwater footage of its seascape with its teeming wildlife make the area look like heaven on earth. But this part of Australia’s eastern coast has a bloody history, with stories of South Sea Islanders being abducted and sold into slavery to work on the sugar plantations and heartbreaking conflict between Aborigines and white settlers that nobody won.
Perhaps inevitably this rocky coastline is also the site of more than 30 shipwrecks including one known as the Townsville Titanic, Australia’s biggest maritime mystery.
Neil Oliver and team report on all these, but it is the underwater view that proves most fascinating and, as Emma Johnston discovers, it’s one we can now see without getting wet. Google’s Street View is mapping the state of the reef for long-term analysis and as a happy by-product this means we can all go virtual diving.
If you’re someone who is always rooting for Episodes to live up to its promise, good news: now it roars into gear, after a so far slightly halting start to series three.
To begin with there’s a lovely scene where a young actor on Pucks! (the show-within-a-show) goes to Matt LeBlanc for advice. He’s getting offers of movie roles and he doesn’t know how to choose them. “Back when you were hot, you did a lot of movies, right?” he asks. “I do not wanna be 50 and still doing sitcoms!” The fact that he makes a little gesture to Matt at this point does not endear him to the star of the show, who is now keen to get a movie role himself – at whatever cost to Pucks!
Meanwhile, Sean and Beverly try to discuss the fact that they’re having “a problem, fornicationally” and the new network boss calls a 6am meeting and instructs Carol, “Tell people I expect them to bring their truth.”
These kickabout clip-athons are always good fun, but which are your favourites? It’s easier if you break it into sub-categories. So, best team goal? Maybe 1970 Brazil toying with Italy, like cats with mice, before Carlos Alberto delivers the killer blow. Best howitzer? How about the 30-yard Bobby dazzler against Mexico in 1966 (“Hunt on the right. Maybe a shot from Charlton… it’s worth trying!”).
Best goal to get England supporters out of their seats? Surely that’s Michael Owen’s unreadable run and finish against Argentina in 1998. It radiates the sort of grit and determination that leaves our fans misty-eyed with nostalgia.
Individual goal? Cruel, but that has to be Maradona’s mazey run versus England in 1986 in the infamous Hand of God match.
And most aesthetically pleasing goal? I’d give that to Dutch master Dennis Bergkamp, for the defence-foxing touches and cool dispatch against Argentina in 1998. That also gets best commentator’s reaction. Jack van Gelder screamed the scorer’s name five times, before sounding like he’d died and gone to heaven.