“Bang Goes the Theory" BBC America, 10:20 p.m. today
There has been a desperate rush in recent decades to make science enjoyable and layman-friendly via books with catchy titles (“Elephants on Acid, and Other Bizarre Experiments") and perky television shows, most of them featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Most of these efforts are entertaining in a controlled sort of way, exhibiting moderate spunk but never letting you forget that they’re supposed to be educational. “Bang Goes the Theory," a British import that begins tonight on BBC America, brings a refreshing anarchy to the genre. The four hosts are all about curiosity, seeming indifferent to whether viewers learn anything or even whether the explorations they present have a point. “No quiz later," they project.
And so of course you do learn something. In the first episode, for instance, you discover that the world will be in big trouble if print newspapers disappear: We’ll apparently have no alternative means of cooking an egg.
“The question is, how on earth do you fry an egg over a stove if you haven’t got a frying pan?" Yan Wong, one of the hosts, says apropos of nothing, a typical way to introduce segments here. He then proceeds to demonstrate that a newspaper, formed into a basket shape, makes a suitable pan if the heat is kept in check, since an egg fries at a lower temperature than paper burns.
“The egg is absorbing the heat and keeping the paper below that critical ignition temperature," he explains. What, if anything, ink does to the taste and nutritional value of an egg is not discussed.
In a later episode we learn from Jem Stansfield, another host, the good news that if the world runs out of gasoline, we can still get to the grocery store by fashioning ourselves a cart and using a fire extinguisher to power it. Oh, and there is a nonsensical yet informative discussion of why clouds are white that involves whipping the dark-colored British spread known as Marmite with a fork.
The hosts — the others are Liz Bonnin and Dallas Campbell — approach it all with a nonchalance that makes it seem as if they have no idea what’s coming next, which somehow meshes perfectly with the spirit of scientific inquiry.