Saturday, January 31, 2009

When I read that Richard Hammond was going to be presenting a programme about science, designed for children, I had high hopes that it might be of the experiential nature of Top Gear. I looked forward to watching him explore scientific knowledge with the anarchic and naturalistic style of the Top Gear programme which, despite not being able to drive and not being interested in cars, I find very entertaining.

What Blast Lab is, though, is as far as you can get from Top Gear without turning into a party political broadcast on behalf of the green party. It is contrived, with cameo characters in the form of a granny and other caricatures, with artificial situations, teams, and a noisy audience, and the prime emotion that it engenders is irritation, not curiosity. The experiments with dropping a tonne on water on a car are recognizable from Richard Hammond's exploits on Top Gear or Brainiac, but there's none of the naturalism or honesty that shines through from that show.

Well OK, I'm a 50 year old woman and not, I agree, the target audience for the show.. but I have never met a child yet who liked the artificiality of these type of FUNFUNFUN shows. Many of them like Top Gear, for all the same reasons that adults like it. It's funny and intelligent and anarchic and honest. It doesn't talk down to them, it doesn't pretend Richard Hammond's granny works in the studio.

Science IS exciting, it doesn't need dressing up with neon and a rabble of excited children. Discovering and exploring IS FUNFUNFUN, it doesn't need to come in an explosion of colourful graphics and a car with a personality.

I'm wondering when children's television will grow up and realise that they have the chance to show how living in an age of information has changed children's - all our - lives. This programme could have been made 10, 15, hell 30 years ago, barring a few of the computerised effects. It's sooooo last century.

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