Horizon: What my family thought

I am the youngest of four children and even though I am 51 years old, the opinions of my elder brothers and sister carry a lot of weight.

My brother said

We watched you on Horizon on playback. You did very well, but they could say so much more in an hour!

My sister said

I was struck by the enormous amount of money that must have gone to build this programme around the presenter and to do so little to envision the audience that might have something to learn from it.  If I had been you, I should have felt slightly used.  Presumeably NPL got some sort of fee for your time.  I don’t think they should bother again for a production of such low calibre. At the end of the presenter ego fest, (not science programme), I know that Ben Miller has a house in Central London- a high house; that he went to Cambridge and that Scientists there remember him for his hair and for some science; that he goes to dinner parties; that he has a yellow car;and his features are etched on my memory, having seen more of facial close-ups than feels decent. I know less about what exactly he was proposing to clarify for a public audience.  It was odd; he used the term ‘Kelvin’ a couple of times and, as far as I gathered made no clarification  at all of what this was.  It was so disjointed and actually embarrassing and he underused the scientists he had access to.

Anyway, I can see how you would be depressed if this sort of thing sets the standard for informational and educational presentation.  I don’t know if you watch any of Charlie Brooker’s tv review programmes.  They are keen.  James reminded me that in one instance Brooker was talking about wasted money in productions and mentioned that they had been going to do some location shoot for a link:  the cost would have been enormous and he elected instead to present the link to a studio camera while setting alight to £50 notes  (they may or may not have been real! I don’t recall).  He said it was miles cheaper than the proposed, largely pointless location shot and made the point equally well.

When I commented on the eloquence of her review, she warmed to her theme

In any critique, I at least attempt to visit the possible perspective of all actors and can appreciate the strategy that NPL might have, from both a self and science comms point of view.  I can see that any science treatment might be better than none, but the narcisism of production values reflects a real illness in the balance of values and presents evidence for the lowest possible attacks on the BBC.  Why do ‘successful’ middle class achievers have such a diminished ability to imagine that those apparently ‘below’ them in the achievement hierarchy might actually not be intellectually or significantly developmentally inferior to them?  Narcissism I guess and fear of realising the nature of their networks… .
There’s a clear case for a bunch of science types collaborating mutually and with suitably skilled and orientated imaginative others to create thier own output and I’m sure your mate Alom has some handle on this.  There’s a clear case for focussing on the idea of communication and how you do that (something I, and you, know a little about) and working from there.  Surely there is someone in Science in the BBC who has the ability to evaluate Horizon?
Summarising, I think my family thought I didn’t embarrass them (phew!) but that the programme lacked ambition. And I think I agree with them. There were so many fascinating things they didn’t mention that would have made sense to people, and elucidated the whole idea of one degree so much better. Of Well, it looks like its up to me and my mates to do better!

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