Could Wales really be home to some of the world’s most dangerous creatures? Are ‘big cat’ sightings the Welsh answer to the Scots’ Loch Ness Monster mystery? And can someone with less than 200 twitter followers be considered a ‘real’ celebrity? I headed to the live event showing of the second BBC Wales television series of Rhys to the Rescue to find out!
Rhys to the Rescue sees the Cardiff University School of Biosciences’ honorary research fellow, Dr Rhys Jones, meet wildlife crime challenges head on and identify and handle the dangerous animals that cause fear to the Welsh damsels (and dudes) in distress!
The event, held at Julian Hodge lecture theatre on January 18, was buzzing with excited Cardiff University staff and students, National Museum staff, South Wales police and the BBC. West End star, Connie Fisher, also made an appearance to show her support for the programme.
Dr Rhys Jones, 40, is a herpetologist (reptile expert) and is one of few people qualified to deal with endangered species and snakes. Cardiff-born Dr Jones, who undertook undergraduate and PhD qualifications at Cardiff University, warmly welcomed everyone who was attending. Before the showing of his BBC Wales television programme, he stated, “Thank you everyone. I have been influenced by all of you.”
Dr Jones, whose previous jobs have included training the army to be courageous with snakes, says his mission is “to indoctrinate Cardiff University with snake biology and to make everyone passionate about conserving the environment for future generations.”
Jones also declared his status as a local celebrity, recalling anecdotes of free drinks and not needing reservations for Cardiff restaurants. Hmm, I wasn’t sure I was about to enjoy this session of smugness!
Before the viewing of the live show, the audience were shown the commercial which accompanies the series. Rhys is “Dangerous! Sensitive! And Back!” the theatrical voiceover declared, as sensationalised shots of Dr Jones in action were played.
The commercial summed up the nature of the programme perfectly. Rhys to the Rescue is larger than life and is at times more lame action movie than wildlife documentary.
There is much action close up footage of our local hero, accompanied by dramatic music. You get the impression that Dr Jones fancies himself as a bit of a Bruce Willis. However, this only works in its favour; Rhys to the Rescue is so over the top, it is hilarious.
However, Rhys is not the only star of the show. Rhys to the Rescue is really an elaborate double act. PC Mark Goulding plays Robin to Rhys’s Batman while they go around the country solving “wildlife crime” on behalf of Countryside Council for Wales.
In the opening episode, the audience watched Rhys rescue a frightened man in Abertridwr, stuck on the toilet with a ferocious snake. Rhys then headed to a South Wales forest to try and solve the mystery of eye witness reports of large panther sightings.
Finally, to highlight Rhys’ ‘sensitive side’, the expert headed to Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Swansea – home to around 300 unwanted animals. Here, Rhys was on hand to help lonely Billy the chimpanzee, scarred from experiences in a Bulgarian Zoo, settle at the sanctuary and make friends with his new chimp roommates. Heart-warming stuff!
Move over Alan Titchmarsh; Rhys Jones has emerged as the modern-day mums’ celebrity crush. This was confirmed in the question and answer session after the programme, where a young boy, on behalf of his mother, asked the presenter if he was single.
I asked the presenter how this filming opportunity had initially arisen. Rhys said, “I used to be a scientific advisor for the BBC. Impressed with my knowledge of and work with snakes, one day at a function, they offered me my own show.
He was also keen to advise budding science communicators that “it isn’t enough to want to be on television. Too many people want to be on television. You’ve also got to be really passionate about what you do.”
At the end of the showing, PC Mark Goulding took the stage and highlighted that there is a lot more to Dr Jones’ role in the community than is shown in the TV series. Solving wildlife crime issues is Jones’ actual job.
Our fearless expert was keen to make this clear too: “This is real life. It’s not a soap opera.” Jones stated.
The evening concluded with PC Goulding presenting Rhys with a certificate of recognition for his Wildlife and Crime Enforcement work.
As much as I almost wanted to hate it, Rhys to the Rescue was really quite enjoyable and fun! The show clearly does not take itself too seriously. Excitement, pace and humour is injected into Wales and biology in this cop-show take on conservation issues.
Series 2 is on BBC1 Wales at 7.30pm on Wednesdays.