Saturday, 16 January 2010INDEX

Dumbed down tv

It is often said that tv is full of rubbish, silly prattlings of celebrities famous simply for being famous. Nothing could be further from the truth thanks to the BBC iPlayer. There has always been a sprinkling of good quality tv, the trouble was you had to sit through a lot of rubbish to get to it (or govern your viewing by an alarm clock). This is no longer true. Thanks to the iPlayer you can watch what you want, more or less when you want to watch it, so long as it is no more than seven days after transmission (28 days if you download it).

So yesterday I watched The Secret Life of Chaos (producer/director Nick Stacey) in which Professor Jim Al-Khalili explains the history of an idea, chaos theory and self organisation, in a truly intelligent way. This is not like any other documentary you may have seen on chaos theory. All the rest were filled with pregnant, unanswerable questions. This offers real insight. It also contained many stunning, yet relevant images. Must see tv for anyone interested in science.

Then there was Why Do Viruses Kill. This was really radio 4 on tv for the most part, but what radio! We got introduced to the man who saved 300m lives! We also heard the story of the man who created life! He really did create his own virus from a bunch of ingredients he ordered over the internet. Jurassic Park in real life. As tv the best thing about this rather wonderful documentary was the talking heads, the scientists themselves. Fabulous to see them describe some of the strangest and most challenging ideas in the Zeitgeist. The thing I took away from this is that maybe the planet is run in the interests of the viruses, not us. We are simply their hosts. A strange but compelling idea.

Finally there was Three Men Go to Ireland (director/producer Andrew Fettis), which is amazing tv. How anyone persuaded three stellar personalities like Griff Rhys Jones, Dara O'Briain and Rory McGrath to work together on the series is beyond me. But this was wonderful tv with the lads each getting to do a turn amidst beautiful landscapes and interesting technology (a slow barge and a car that takes to water). A very pleasant way to spend 59 minutes.
Saturday, 16 January 2010INDEX