Netflix UK TV review: River Monsters
Ivan Radford | On 11, Dec 2016
When a programme begins with the immortal words “I’m Jeremy Wade, fresh water detective”, you know you’re in for a good time. ITV’s River Monsters sees Wade journey around the world looking for deadly aquatic beasts. He heads to Alaska to find a lake monster who, as legend has it, drags people down to their icy graces. He ventures to the Amazon to find a gargantuan gilled monstrosity supposedly inhabited by an evil spirit. He flies to south east Asia’s Mekong river in search of a fish that is chopping through people’s genitals. Wade narrates all these quests in gruff, intensely serious, hard-boiled tones. Like a Raymond Chandler novel. But with fish.
“Large or small, it’s their ability to inflict lethal damage that interest me,” he growls, not at all disturbingly, before he continues his hunt for yet another “unseen mutilator leaving a trail of disfigured victims”. One episode sees him begin his investigation at a fish market, where Wade sadly uncovers no prime suspects – an operation that he carries out with zero self-awareness whatsoever. Much like a normal police thriller. But with fish.
The whole thing is then cut together with close-ups of fish thrashing underwater in black-and-white, accompanied by scary music, just in case we might accidentally think this isn’t a serious piece of television, instead of a programme in which a very angry man looks for a fish.
Wade’s inability to keep silent becomes funnier and funnier as it goes on, particularly because the series makes such an effort to avoid long shots of him waiting on a riverbank with a fishing rod for hours on end. After all, that would be boring. ITV’s River Monsters – that’s “River Monsters” – is a lot of things, but never that.
“These waters are more treacherous then they look,” he warns, at one point, sailing down a very calm river. “Predators aren’t the only things that could be hidden in there.” Well, there’s that poor cameraman for a start.
One brief moment of realism sees Wade cast his line into the treacherous waters, only to snag the branch of a tree. “I need to switch tactics,” he declares, unfazed, and moves on to asking the locals if they’ve seen any suspicious fish recently. It’s hard to tell whether this is so daft it’s fun to watch, or strangely compelling in its own right. Either way, the result is the most hard-hitting piece of fish-based television since Ross Kemp on Salmon. It’s like the sequel to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective you never knew you wanted.
The programme has already reached its seventh season.
River Monsters Season 1 to 3 are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.