Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Horizon, the BBC’s flagship science show, of which I have been an avid viewer since childhood, has just lost me.

A run of shows (which will presumably be narrated by the same person) has just started, with the theme of educating the next president of the US as to what science is, as well as how it can be best used as a tool to improve lives, reduce pollution, provide power and prevent catastrophes (or at least minimise their effects). Entitled The President’s Guide to Science, it aims, with the assistance of (among others) Richard Dawkins, Sir Paul Nurse, Michio Kaku and Richard L Garwin to highlight why ignoring science, cutting funding and somehow thinking that science has provided nothing for humanity is not exactly the way to go...

Let’s face it, US presidents since Kennedy are not entirely known for their loving embrace toward any science other than getting elected.

However, humorous mock-the-yanks reasoning aside, the show has become unwatchable due to one, seemingly minor, thing. The female narrator cannot pronounce the word “nuclear”. Yep, you guessed it, it’s coming out as that delightful noo-kyoo-lar mangling that seems to be prevalent in pockets of northern America these days.

Now, this sounds like a tiny and rather pedantic reason to stop watching a show (and it probably is, being honest). However, if the show is attempting (even in a wry, self-deprecating and ironic manner) to teach a Septic President how that complicated science thing works, an effort could have been made to get the narrator to fucking pronounce a simple word correctly. Especially one that comes up so often in the show. And even more as it’s one which doesn’t have British/US alternative spellings (I’m completely with the US on aluminum, by the way, it was first). What the holy fuck was the director doing when he/she should have been checking this during recording? Fuck quality control, eh?

An educational programme can’t educate when you get stuff wrong. You’re not talking about Ghost Hunter Extreme, Gillian McKeith’s pseudo-scientific diet-related crap, or even those right-wing creationist Politically Incorrect Guide to... books. This is supposed to be factual programme-making.

An apposite example, brought to you by our correspondent for Van Halen affairs:
Demanding M&Ms of a particular colour to be in their dressing-room as part of the contract with a venue for playing a show was nothing to do with fuelling egos (mighty though Diamond Dave’s evidently is). Instead, it was a canny little check that everything else on a lengthy contract had been done as promised. This would include all of the safety and fire regulations checks, along with security personnel requirements. Most of this would be checked out anyway by the manager on arrival, but the lack of the M&Ms would highlight that there might be other things missing that might be a lot more serious.
Back to reality: if a factual show about science can’t be bothered to get the narrator to pronounce a scientific word correctly, what else is wrong with it that no-one’s noticed?

You wouldn’t get this sort of crap on The Wire...


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