Tuesday, October 24

Learning Nothing Zone

Richey Nash learns very little about the future, bad science and how to watch wildlife on another night in front of the idiot box

All I wanted was a glass of wine and good TV, but a quick look in the cupboards showed I was out of luck. There was no wine: just a can of lukewarm Coca Cola and cheap vodka left from a June party at a squat in Hackney. And a look in the TV guide revealed there was no good TV either.

Kicking off the night Bill Oddie’s How To Watch Wildlife (8pm, BBC2) taught me nothing about how to watch wildlife, other than ueing my own common sense. All I learned was (1) have eyes (2) find a badger/squirrel/other boring animal and (3) not crash around like a one-man band while shouting obscenities like Gordon Ramsey with less charm and more Tourette’s Syndrome. Telling the UK to be quiet while watching wildlife is the most useless celebrity-trying-to-teach show since Ian Wright’s Oi! Your Kids Are Fat and Ann Widdecombe’s Beginners’ Guide To Feltching.

But at least Oddie has a knack of making these things faintly interesting. In fact, he’s turning into the doddery eccentric TV has been missing since Patrick Moore. And at least he’s encouraging old guys in glasses to watch furry animals. Well, it’s better than having them ogle primary schools.

After Oddie failed to enthuse me about wildlife I watched The Indestructibles (8.30pm, BBC3), which tried to enthuse me about science. It did this using pointless experiments (a la Mythbusters), the first of which involved twins drinking. Scintillating.

The first twin drunk coffee while the other second drunk mineral water, to see which made them want to piss more. In the end – after five litres of liquid in two hours – it concluded that drinking five litres of coffee in two hours would make you urinate down your leg. That’s science! But it’s pointless. Even drinking five litres of bleach in two hours would make you want to go to the toilet. If you weren’t hunched triple from the excruciating internal burning.

The second experiment featured a bald guy climbing an 80’ wall in a big fridge. He wanted to see if it was easier to do it while (1) wearing warm clothes or (2) while completely naked. During the challenge the show swooshed in words like ‘nippy’ and ‘parky’ over the ‘action’, like a crap Powerpoint presentation. Eventually the guy decided it’s easier to climb a fake mountain and avoid hypothermia while wearing clothes. Genius! So don’t climb a mountain if you’re only wearing your pants. Idiot.

The idiocy got too much after nine minutes so I watched an episode of Seinfeld on DVD before tuning in to – heaven help me – The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (9pm, BBC1). An Andrew Marr cameo couldn’t make this anything more than unrealistic fluff. It’s meant to make ordinary people believe they can affect the political process, even though most can’t. I guess it’s feelgood, but showing a leading political party where the front bench is predominantly female is also ludicrous in our still penis-centric political boys’ club. Hey don’t hate me… hate the system.

So I switched to Horizon (9pm, BBC2), which tried to scare me senseless about a world in 2029 where computers will be as intelligent as human beings. They will control our thoughts. They will control our actions. Or so the show wanted to preach. This time will be ‘The Singularity’, a name that only conjures up the image of a bad Doctor Who episode.

Maybe it was the cheap vodka numbing my capacity for fear, but I didn’t find it terrifying. Partly that was because it was soundtracked by music from Harry Potter and Edward Scissorhands. And partly it was because these prediction shows rarely prove to be true. If TV in the 1970s was to be believed I’d be driving a hover car, wearing a white spacesuit, and having sex completely without emotion. And I’m only doing one of them.

But the programme did show that putting electrodes into an animal’s brain means you can control where it goes. And it also showed a monkey playing a computer game with its mind. But the show’s main aim is to scare not educate, so it’s worth treating this one with a big dollop of scepticism.

By the time hour-long Celebrity Sex Tapes Unwound (10pm, Channel 4) wheeled around, I wanted to relax. Even sex tapes of US ice skater Tonya Harding, former Hear’say bint Suzanne Shaw, and actor Rob Lowe couldn’t tempt me to keep the TV on. So I switched on the Seinfeld and tried to get comfortable with my Coke and my lukewarm vodka. Well, there's nothing wrong with turning to DVDs when TV spectacularly fails you. Again.

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