I don’t get Discovery UK (heck, I don’t get Five), so I only have the web video clips to go on to judge this new series: The Big Experiment.

Interesting. It’s a stunt series, essentially the same ideas as Jamie’s School Dinners, but I don’t necessarily object to that in itself. What annoys me is three-fold:

  • That a populist science series is now so unusual, it deserves attention merely for existing. My, how things have changed since Don’t Ask Me.
  • That it looks like it has to cheat in order to ‘compete’ with Mythbusters and Brainiac.
  • If you really wanted to make a difference, and influence children’s lives, you’d make this stuff for Bebo. But of course, there’s no commercial sense in that…

Despite this series, and a new (/rebadged) children’s engineering show the BBC are making, I still think science TV is dead. We’ve lost the culture of treating these series as routine and expected (in the same way that comedy and drama and news are), and I think the funding model is broken too. Particularly now Scrapheap Challenge has gone too, I can no longer see a career path for science TV specialists except via big documentaries.

By my reckoning, science television is no longer a sustainable industry. I don’t think it has been for a few years already.

So I’m not miffed by The Big Experiment – it just makes me rather sad and wistful. Well, apart from one thing: their claim that lifting people with helium balloons has never been done before. Umm… yes, it has. There’s the (surprisingly non-apocryphal) man-in-a-lawn-chair story, then a couple of publicity stunts for a champagne company and Coca-Cola, and then an old children’s TV show did it almost ten years back.

I remember it clearly.

I was there.