Monday 26 August 2019

Professor Brian Cox: TV bosses think they have to dumb down

The pop star-turned-physicist was interviewed by comedian John Bishop.

Stephen Hawking symposium
Stephen Hawking symposium

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Professor Brian Cox has accused TV bosses of underestimating the intelligence of viewers.

The presenter, 49, also revealed that he “mutinied” after being ordered by a TV executive to fly to Venezuela while filming hit series Wonders Of The Universe.

Asked about dumbing down, he told TV show In Conversation With: “It’s one of the big mistakes that I think we make sometimes on television… that you underestimate the audience, and particularly younger audiences.”

He said that 10 and 11-year-olds were “fascinated” and would “listen” intently during his science tours, where he tackles big subjects such as Einstein’s general theory of relativity and what happened before the Big Bang.

“But if you said… to a television executive I want to make a programme for 12-year-olds, then it would end up being… I don’t know what it would end up being but it wouldn’t end up talking about things like that,” he said.

John Bishop

“You can simplify so much that there’s no chance of understanding it,” the pop star-turned-physicist told In Conversation With host John Bishop.

He added: “I think most people are interested in these ideas of where we came from, what is our place in the universe, how did life begin on Earth.”

Prof Cox also described how his “tired” team “mutinied” after being told by a TV executive to fly to Venezuela while making Wonders Of The Universe, after filming in Africa for almost a month.

“The malaria tablets sent you a bit wacky. And at the end of it, the executive in London sat there – I always imagine him drinking his cappuccino – said, ‘Guys, there’s a great thunderstorm thing… in Venezuela, it’s one of the great sights of the world, so can you just go on your way back, can you just go through to Venezuela and film this thing…’.

“And so we go, ‘Yeah’, not thinking that obviously South Africa to Venezuela’s quite a long way. It’s about a 40-hour flight.”

When the team arrived in Venezuela, after a “ridiculous” and “horrendous” series of “three or four flights”, he and the crew were taken to a shed.

“There was no food and just a bit of water and a generator, and all these poisonous things and these funny sort of insects… and massive mosquitoes,” Prof Cox said.

“So we all went mad and basically mutinied… We got him (the fixer) and we said, ‘We’re not filming there, take us to the nearest boat’. We’d fallen to bits. We were literally insane. It was like Apocalypse Now. We’d gone mad. We had like sort of painting on our faces.”

Prof Cox added: “We all went home, scattered across the world… We’d literally gone mad.”

John Bishop In Conversation With Brian Cox airs on Thursday November 17 at 9pm on W.

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