Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mad And Bad: 60 Years Of Science On TV


Narrated by: Robert Webb

Broadcast: 15th December 2010 (BBC4)

Running time: 89 minutes

In a nutshell: Robert Webb narrates this documentary looking at science (fiction and non-fiction) on British television (primarily the BBC), with a piece on each decade from the 1950s through to the 2000s.


Review: I’m going to start off by saying this isn’t really a Doctor Who piece, the show only gets two mentions through the show, grabbing less than ten minutes of screen time in total. Instead what this documentary gives is a gripping display of how science has changed on our screens and the advances it’s been given through the likes of technology and presentation. This does lead to a small problem in that it doesn’t really label a lot of the faults of today’s television, possibly because we can’t see any without the benefit of hindsight, however that isn’t stated.

When there is a downfall of the shows, such as the ‘boring lecture’ style of the 1950s, Robert Webb gives some sarcastic narration, thinking that’ll hopefully keep the audience happy. Webb’s narration is my big problem with this show, as I don’t really connect him with science or science fiction, he’s just gained the job of being BBC3 and 4’s latest poster boy for cheap narration or poor jokes (in the form of TV and Movie Mistakes programmes).

Various leading artists in the field are interviewed including David Attenborough and Robert Winston, but when it comes down to fiction, we have to rely on Kim Newman who irritates the hell out of me! He tries to make it known so desperately how much he loves science fiction as well as the director deciding to give us an extreme close up of his greying moustache as he watches the television shows that we want to see rather than his ‘enjoyable’ face.

Apart from not much time being giving to the latter decades, this documentary is actually really good and makes you want to go out and watch the most surprising of things, such as ‘Horizon’ or ‘Tomorrow’s World’, which were the best parts of this show. There’s a great focus on ‘The Sky At Night’ as well, with Patrick Moore being interviewed about his involvement. Overall, even if you don’t enjoy science (just science fiction) this is incredibly interesting to watch and even teaches you a thing or two, even citing ‘famous’ shows you may not have heard of, such as the open university giving lectures on BBC2. This is a brilliant account of how science has developed, telling interesting developments and a really great (although passed over) comparison between 1960s American sci-fi and British sci-fi. Definitely worth a watch, just don’t look out for loads of Who related snippets!

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