TV Review: River Monsters
By Jeremy Clay
Things that worried me in the 1970s, in no particular order.
Jeremy Wade gets up close and personal with a piranha fish in the new series River Monsters
Quicksand. Getting stuck in a fridge. Having to do PE in my pants. Davros. The drop and cough test. Flying a kite into a pylon. Rabid dogs. Killer fog. What the Germans might get up to next. Herpes. Hitch-hiking grannies who turn out to be psychopathic men, with machetes hidden in their woolly coats. And piranhas.
Particularly piranhas. Even though we spent our holidays in North Shields each year rather than the Amazon basin, I was really quite vexed about them.
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But Jeremy Wade's not scared. And he's only too happy to prove it. On River Monsters (7.30pm), ITV's new documentary series, he went fishing for piranhas in Brazil.
When he caught one – a proper meat-scoffing gnasher, not one of those namby-pamby veggies – and he was satisfied the river was sufficiently infested with more of the damn things, he stood up in the boat and suddenly toppled over the side into the murky waters below.
Jeremy is new to our screens. Enjoy him while you can, It's possible he won't be around for long.
Emboldened by the piranhas' disinclination to strip the flesh from his bones, he turned the swimming pool of his hotel into a makeshift lab to back his theory that they won't attack humans even when they're hungry.
First he put a load of piranhas in the pool, and starved them for a couple of days. Then he poured in some blood. He put meat on a stick and thrashed it around in the water. Then he climbed in himself. And it's true, they weren't bothered.
Although he didn't seem to be in for long. Maybe the entire crew had to scarper hastily from a furious hotel manager.
His point here was that piranhas are misunderstood. A bit like Heather Mills, but less vicious.
Yet the ferocious reputation of the piranha hasn't come from nowhere. In the 1970s, a coach careered off the road and into the Amazon, and most of the passengers died. When help arrived and the coach was eventually winched back to the shore, lots of them had been eaten.
Jeremy reckons that was because they were already dead, or they were thrashing around in the water. So there's the lesson. If you find yourself unexpectedly submerged in the Amazon, stay still.
Oh, and watch where you paddle. Jeremy went to a lake where eight piranha attacks happened in just one weekend at the end of 2005. They were just protecting their nests, he said. They're very caring animals really, he insisted. Which would be small consolation as the surgeon saws off what's left of your foot.
But while piranhas might not spend their entire life eagerly awaiting the moment they tear their way down to your tibia, I think I'll stay well clear, all the same. After all, the Amazon's still got that fish that swims up your wee.