17 February 2011

BBC2 - The Spice Trail

I'm fascinated by the subject matter, but the presentation was so bad that I had to switch off after 25 minutes. The simpering gushing blather of Kate Humble made this unwatchable.  The travelogue was fine, the content fascinating, the pictures wonderful, and Kate H is great when she's doing voiceover.  But when she gets into the act, projecting herself to the forefront of events, it's stomach churning.

It's not Blue Peter, it's not CBeebies, it's a programme for allegedly intelligent viewers on the BBC's alternative prime channel.  From treading the pepper, to cheering the snake boats, to drinking tea made with Ayurvedic medicines, it's quite nauseating.  I nearly switched off after 15 minutes, and after 25, couldn't stand it any more.  What a shame that the BBC has made an infantile mess of a fascinating subject, instead of treating its viewers like adults.  Maybe episodes 2 and 3 will be better, but I don't hold out much hope.  I'm sorry but this gets my "BBC at its worst" vote.

While available on BBC iPlayer, it's here


  1. I agree entirely with your views on this. I forced myself through the hour long episode because the subject matter was very interesting and also because I felt I should be taking notes for an angry letter to the BBC about how it was served to us.
    It was such a shame as the subject was clearly well researched and the locations well chosen that had someone else presented it to us it may well have been a true gem.
    Finally, had nobody told Kate that wearing revealing clothes in India is frowned upon? Some of her clothing choices were fairly disgraceful.
    It was all a bit to much like watching an annoying gap year student.

    Another "BBC at its worst" vote from me.

  2. It was painful to watch Humble unknowingly adopt a very colonial persona.... she romanticised and glossed over the difficulties and problems of the spice trade and its production. She dismissed the cinnamon ladiy's fears for the future in an insensitive and ignorant way. She clumsily stumbbled into a religious ceremony, showing with no due respect or cultural sensitivity. Would it be asking too much to have qualified persons to present shows which are supposed to educate and edify us? The growing culture of employing a vacuous presenter is nauseating! How could the BEEB butcher a topic ripe for analysis a rich in information?

  3. It's a bit like getting Timmy Mallet to present 'The Sky at Night'. I'm sick of all this 'dumbing down' by the BBC. Let's have some experts in their fields to present these documentary-style programmes and to show a modicum of respect to the people whose lives are being filmed.

  4. The program stretches itself to utter a stream of continous cliche and it succeeds. Just in case you might think it accidental - the 'voice' is scripted and canned in a studio and dubbed over. It's a preconcieved carnage.

    Warning. Exceeding the three minute threshold could permanently damage your perception of the BBC.

  5. i persevered through her presentation style and was glad i did. i'm glad i worked through my reaction to hear the general message: 'never look at an almond the same way again' lol

  6. I can't agree with the criticisms. I think that like the Frankinsence Trail, this programme is very well structured, educational, entertaining and watchable. Kate is very personable, articulate and clearly gets on with the people she meets. Who do the above Bloggers feel should be presenting this? Some self-centred celebrity chef or a staid BBC newscaster. As a woman Kate is able to relate well to the many women who work producing spices. I for one got fed up with Michael Palin flirting with women on his trips around the Eastern European countries in his last show. What's wrong with being exuberant and showing enjoyment. As for the 'disgraceful clothes' in episode 1.......I missed them.
    Richard Cusden

  7. Thanks for the comments; I watched the second half of episode two and it was generally better. But why the hell did she have to be 'made into a princess'?

    By the way the photography is wonderful and Kate does a great job when commentating. I just wish the dear old BBC would stop treating its evening audience as infants.

  8. Totally disagree with the comments about The Spice Trail. Kate Humble has empathy and connected with those she met. I found the programmes engaging and informative. Kate is an enthusiastic person, I guess it takes one to know one.

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  10. The third programme was pretty good, covering saffron and vanilla. As before, the photography was fantastic and there were lots of things to learn about these spices, and the places too. Even if I never visit the High Atlas, I've a pretty clear picture in my mind of the harshness of the environment and the spirit of the people. The content was good - nothing infantile - and well worth watching; Kate Humble did a good job.

    [By the way, anonymous repeated or cloned posts won't make it onto the comments roll.]

  11. I can see where people are coming from when they criticise Kate's apparent overly friendly chumminess with the locals but in this case I do think it's unfair. Anyone who has travelled to remote places in the world, especially places where making a living is tough, will know just how much people love to show their generosity and it's plain rude to be anything other than overly exuberant in your friendliness back to them. When I travelled through Indonesia I was invited to a wedding of complete strangers and was treated like an honoured guest!
    I feel Kate's genuine interest shines through and I think it's good that she gets in there with the locals and tries to get a feeling for what it's like to live in a world producing these spices.

  12. Nancy Palmer-Jones21 March 2011 at 21:27

    I absolutely agree with 'Anonymous'. I have worked with different people making their traditional craft - paper growing,harvesting and making- and been treated like a princess, although my contribution was minimal. I shudder to think what these detractors would have in place of Kate's empathy and enjoyment, both with the 'big men' and with men and women producers. It is not that these people have forgotton the past, but have forgiven, and are getting on with life with as much joi de vivre as possible. Shame on you grumpy old correct politicos. Enjoy !


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