Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dara O'Briain's Science Club

This one has passed me by largely because it's in a weekday time-slot that doesn't suit me and then I always forget to check it on Iplayer. In typical fashion, I managed to catch an episode only to discover it's the last in the series. Bit of a shame as it's actually quite good.

The show is probably best described as "tomorrow's world" meets "top gear". Luckily it is a lot more factual than "top gear" which while staged fun doesn't really tell you much about cars while in Dara's show you have actually learnt something about science by the time the credits roll. The show consists of several pre-recorded segments focusing on a story and is never more than 5 mins in length so as to keep short attention spans captive.
To make it a bit more interactive  they do have a lot of studio-based demonstrations - in this episode we had magnets and a computer than can "taste" whiskey via spectrophotometry and a database which I think helps make the science more "real" for casual viewers. They also have guests on the show who actually know something about the research topics being covered (in this case most of them were active researchers) which is a nice way to put a face on things.
Dara is also one of those presenters who has an ability to make the most serious of guests have a sense of humour (he worked wonders with Brian Cox on "sky at night") keeping things light-hearted and never overly dry with the facts.

I also enjoyed the brief segment on the "scientist hall of fame" which is something I really appreciate (no surprise to those who used to read my "name the biologist" features). I definitely think this is something they could expand on by actually getting some living scientists on the show to discuss their work. The Biology field alone has enough "characters" to fill a couple of series and I'm sure the same is true for other science disciplines.

There really wasn't much to complain about besides what I thought was an ill choice of phrase when a reporter said "scientists are playing God". It's a phrase that either has negative connotations or is of no value so I'd say it's best to avoid it all together as I know that phrase could make people instantly mistrust the science being talked about.

I think the show could do with its version of "star in a reasonably priced car" to get some non-scientist celebs on to talk about their interest in science and then have a go at a science-based challenge where they could be ranked on results. I can't think of a challenge off the top of my head but I'm not a producer of the show. It should be possible to come up with something - cookery shows have "fastest omelet" and I'd say there's more scope for a science challenge. I think this could be a good way to snag some more viewers and it's good for science to have celebrities showing an interest.

As I said, I haven't seen any of the other episodes so they may have tried out some of the things I just mentioned. I do think the show has a lot of promise and may really hit its stride with a few more episodes and promotion (honestly the first I heard of it was when a comedian was insulting Dara over the ratings on "Mock the week"). I'll try my best to watch future episodes and try and track down the older ones. Try and check it out if you can.

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