Rating 7.7
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 3 x 60 mins

The trailer for the BBC’s new natural-history splash says quite simply “Get to know our closest relatives”. Although on closer inspection you might just think that with some of what’s going on in the world right now these monkeys are a whole lot more advanced than we are.

The three-part series is narrated by Chris Packham, and for The Telegraph’s Anita Singh (paywall), that seems to be a slight problem. She thinks Primates “has fabulous footage and incredible access and interesting insights into animal behaviour. What it doesn’t have is Sir David Attenborough. It’s an absence keenly felt. An Attenborough narration brings such gravitas and intelligence to proceedings that he could provide the voiceover to your neighbour taking the bins out and you would watch in awe.”

Ellie Harrison in The Independent takes the closest relative thing a bit further “There is a monkey in the BBC’s new nature epic that bears a startling resemblance to Donald Trump. The uakari has a disgruntled, crimson face and bleach blond hair – though its coat is far thicker than the wispy comb-over still desperately clinging to the president’s scalp… Almost every sequence shows them acting like people. One group of monkeys can be seen doing DIY, their faces a picture of grim determination as they make hunting tools out of wood… It’s very comic, very human.”

In The Guardian Jack Seale also clocked that this had a different tone to an Attenborough doc: “One of several gladdening moments in the first instalment of Primates was seeing a gorilla child swing repeatedly into his father’s face… Looking after toddlers is the same humbling, bruising pleasure in the forests of central Africa as it is anywhere else. Primates is at the playful end of the natural history spectrum, with Chris Packham arching one eyebrow during the narration, and the music regularly journeying towards jaunty.”

Closest relatives or not, Primates will bring a smile to your face and take you to far corners of the globe that you’re unlikely to be seeing too soon.

Primates first shown April 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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