Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Science for Kids, Not Dummies; Television

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Science for Kids, Not Dummies; Television

Article excerpt


Crash Test Danny, Discovery Kids

DESPITE innumerable attempts to rejuvenate itself, there's still a curiously dated feel to Top Gear.

That peculiarly British male world of sporty, knockabout, jockstrappy, locker- room machismo belongs firmly to the 1970s, and Jeremy Clarkson is just too old and overweight to be talking laddishly about "nice little numbers", or tossing around truncated techno-words such as "dash" and "spec", not to mention indulging in mid-air refuelling sessions with much younger female producers at award ceremonies, at the risk of subsequent evisceration from his longsuffering wife.

My reviews have clearly done nothing whatsoever to remove this human crash-test dummy from our screens (so much for the power of TV criticism), but having noticed that he always drives his review cars very fast while simultaneously looking at the camera fixed to the side door (instead of at the road ahead), I recently devised a plan for Mr Clarkson's eradication.

Posing as the programme's director, I'll persuade him to down a dozen lagers immediately before racing a Ferrari Henri Paul-style along a narrow winding alpine pass while delivering a 10-minute monologue to the fixed lens, at the end of which he should be not only on the camera, but also on the radio ...

and the dashboard ... and the windscreen.

Some readers may think that high-velocity road accidents are no laughing matter, but that's only because they haven't yet seen Crash Test Danny. A frenetic combination of How and Jackass, this children's programme routinely inflicts extreme, cartoon-style violence on the eponymous human mannequin (played by Ben Langley), often to the accompaniment of Bat --manesque captions reading " Boink ", " Kethwack ", "Sfoosh", and "Aaaargh".

Although it's a science show with a serious educational purpose, the makers know that today's tartrazine-fuelled Sunny Delight generation has a limited attention span, and needs to be amused as well as enlightened. Which is why each programme consists of short bursts of mayhem interspersed with brief factual explanations, with the scenes racing by as thick and as fast as, well, as Jeremy Clarkson in a Ferrari.

Standing beneath a sign pointing to a Highly Professional & Top Secret Crash Test Research Facility, Danny embarks on his weekly challenge to explain everyday phenomena to viewers in scientific terms. To this end, he is aided (and impeded) by The Professor, a crazed whitecoated bespectacled boffin in the best traditions of Vision On, played by Gary Carpenter, and looking like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's younger, more likeable brother.

Yesterday's question (posed by 11-year-old Joe) was "Why do I feel sick when I read a book in the car?", and the presenters immediately began trying to solve the problem by devising some "carefully planned experiments" to demonstrate how the laws of equilibrium function, whereas I'd already come up with the answer in seconds. …

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