What Are Brits Watching?: ‘Penguins: Spy in the Huddle’

A baby penguin unknowingly peeking into a spy cam like this one hidden in a rock. (BBC)

A curious baby penguin unknowingly peeks into a spy egg. (BBC)

BBC’s latest wildlife series allows us the chance to spy on a colony of penguins … literally.

What’s on: Penguins: Spy in the Huddle
What is it: This documentary TV show, narrated by David Tennant (Doctor Who), utilizes 50 of nature’s best disguised spy cameras capturing unique footage of three extraordinary species: Emperor Penguins, Rockhoppers and Humboldts. A remote-controlled robot penguin is hidden in the colony taking pictures, allowing us to follow the tenacious birds’ journey through the freezing Antarctic, revealing what actually goes on in the huddle.
Air-date: February 11, 2013 – Present on BBC1
Who’s watching: 5.83 million Brits
Why so popular: Who doesn’t love penguins? The animatronic penguins waddle, swim, toboggan – and even “lay” fake eggs. They’re so real that even the penguins themselves try to cozy up to them. It’s a fascinating opportunity to step into nature without being noticed or disruptive.
American counterpart: Discovery Channel and SeaWorld teamed up together producing a 24/7 broadcast of the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego — home to over 300 curious penguins — posting Penguin Cam online. Warner Brothers’ animated film Happy Feet may have gotten some of its choreography from the real life penguins’ moves in Spy in the Huddle.

Spy in the Huddle spent nearly a year in the close company of penguins, with more than 1,000 hours of footage over 300 days.

If you think it’s hard meeting someone you may want to be thankful you’re not a penguin. Yes, it’s great for the two penguins who meet and mate for life being a monogamous species. But, what about the singletons who become the odd-man-out, like in this scenario? A male and female penguin meet, their gaze cannot be broken, but another female penguin does her best to peck her way in.

In this clip we meet a female penguin about to lay an egg but the egg absolutely cannot touch the ice or it will instantly freeze. It’s a delicate process but with her loyal partner standing nearby she does her best to protect her fragile egg. Take a peek at the clip to see if she’s able to master the calculated move. In this case, it’s not a matter of having eye-hand coordination but eye-tail-feet skills.

It’s hard being a penguin, which is what producer John Downer found out when going through the footage. He posted the best bits, and worst falls, on YouTube as seen here.


— BBC Radio 1 (@BBCR1) March 5, 2013

A clever fan put some captions to the amazing photos pulled from the documentary. BBC1 was so chuffed they re-tweeted the pictorial. It definitely gave us a giggle. Take a look.

It is rare when the critics are just as keen as fans, but, across the board, reviews are coming in like this one from the TV Choices Letter of the Week giving praise:

Penguin, TV Review

We just hope these penguins don’t let the attention go to their heads and go all “Hollywood” on us!

Do you enjoy watching naturalist programs?