What do you get when you stretch an 8-minute video out into an hour-long nature documentary? Mostly, repeated edited clips of those precious 8-minutes diluted by ho-hum back story and speculative experts voicing their opinions.
My father, who hadn’t seen the original “Battle at Kruger” YouTube safari spectacular, joined me tonight to watch the National Geographic Channel’s hour-long, prime-time adaption, “Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger.” His take: “This is ridiculous! Stop cutting away!”
The documentary promises an “uncut and digitally enhanced” showing of the epic fight to save the baby buffalo from “the original master copy,” but you don’t get to see it until 50 minutes into the oldteevee special. Indeed, the video is hashed and rehashed, punctuated by a healthy dose of network television commercials. In the end, this hour-long documentary undid everything that was satisfying about the original video: the instant gratification, the unadulterated sequence, and the unexpected twists. The purity of the experience is ruined by all the accouterments television thinks necessary.
To National Geographic’s credit, they didn’t shy away from the fact that this was a YouTube viral hit first. This is despite the fact that David Budzinski, the videographer, tried selling the video to a disinterested Nat Geo when he first returned to the states, as the The New York Times reports.
In fact, Nat Geo pursued the YouTube angle to a fault. The show begins with portentous narrator intoning: “YouTube is a way of life for many of us.” But things really dragged when the show delved into the more than 30,000 comments the video has garnered. When television is reduced to reading, verbatim, the prose of internet commenters you know things are bad. To quote my father again: “Why do I care what these other idiots have to say?”
Sure, it was nice to see the video on my large TV in much higher resolution that YouTube’s paltry 320×240, but having it dragged out across a full hour chock-full of commercials sucked the awe and joy out of the battle. I can appreciate a little back story and some expert insight, but this just goes to show that viral video hits have yet to find a comfortable home in living room prime-time.
I just hope “otters holding hands” doesn’t get a three-picture deal from Paramount.