I HAVE nothing against Robson Green personally. As an actor he has turned in some compelling performances in the likes of Casualty, Soldier, Soldier and Wire in the Blood. He certainly generates a quickening of pulses among the ladies apparently, though clearly the lad from Dudley on Tyneside maybe falls short of setting up any serious challenge to Swooney Clooney.

Robson Green

Extreme Fishing: 'crass concept'

But as the central star of Extreme Fishing, the Channel 5 series, I fear for his future. Worse, I have some serious concerns for the public’s perception of the hitherto-gentle art of angling when the latest series of the programme is finished.

Last night we were treated to episode three of this hour-long weekly self-indulgence with Green enjoying some of the ‘totally unique’ fishing which China has to offer. On the strength of his cartoon-style adventures I suspect the angling holiday travel trade will have some remedial work to do.

This is not so much extreme as Inane Fishing. This is Bizarre Fishing. This looks very much like Peer into the Bottom of the Ideas Barrel and See What Turns Up Fishing. The image of Robson Green singing Blaydon Races – quite well, it has to be admitted – from the doorstep of a tour bus to a captive and clearly bewildered audience queueing for a ferry somewhere in deepest China, was for me, the angling highlight of the evening.

It took all of 50 minutes of the latest programme before a fishing rod made an appearance on screen. Before that we had Green wrestling with miles of net and a squad of commercial fishermen for huge Big Headed Carp; Green up to his oxters in estuarial mud delving for tiny octopus with a lone commercial fisher; Green at sea with a commercial long-liner for eels; Green joining the well-documented cormorant fishers of the Langhu River and throwing reluctant birds neck first into the water to fish for [very small] catfish.

Extreme indeed. Yes, but the most extreme bits only became evident when something was eventually caught. Those generated Green hysteria – much shouting, lots of arm waving, a fair amount of swearing, some choreographed Extreme Fishing dance routines, several eat-all-you-can Chinese banquets and copious quantities of rice wine.

The only part of this dismal, sad production, which struggled to qualify as fishing entertainment, centred round his participation in an allegedly international sea angling competition in the East China Sea where he was partnered with an enthusiastic local. And yes, rods were actually filmed in use.

The target was Black Sea Bream which were unceremoniously yanked out of the water, dumped writhing on the rocks and then admired in close-up by Green who displayed all the trouser-wetting excitement of a 10-year-old who had just landed his first dace. He finished 39th out of 102 – cue more hysteria.

The problem I have with all of this is not searching out and filming fishing in remote and wonderful lands, or some of the more extraordinary practices humans get up to in pursuit of a catch – whether for sport or, as last night, mostly just trying to earn a meagre living.

No, my problem is the crassness of a concept which reduces everything about fishing to the level of the extremely banal.  Nothing which cannot be reduced to a reaction level of ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, or ‘astonishing’ – each preferably preceded by an expletive – is acceptable.

Nothing so mundane as a passing concern for the well-being or long-term future of one of our greatest natural resources is allowed to intrude on what passes for entertainment. If Robson Green has a subtle bone in his body it is about as well hidden as an octopus’ skeleton.

This is a close to fishing porn as TV may get. The reality of fishing as you, I and almost everyone else knows – or more importantly deserves to know, but will never learn from this programme – is that there is very little about it which is ‘extreme’: not climate, not species large or species small, not tackle and most definitely not tactics.

Only the fragile future of many of our fishy species and their habitats is extreme.  That, and the programme ideas factory at Channel 5.

Advertisements