The Mistakes of "The wonders ..."

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Deimos
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The Mistakes of "The wonders ..."

Post by Deimos »

Having reflected on the program and thought back to the Stargazing Live (if that was what it was called) and I think I have identified when these programs are going wrong. Both are made to existing and inappropriate formulas. Stargazing Live was just copying AutumnWatch - and the different subject matters make it an inappropriate format. Similarly, the Wonders ... is copying the other nature (or scientific) documentary formats without considering how necessary or appropriate it is. David Attenborough travels to exotic locations because there are not many ring tailed lemurs in Bristol. Similarly, make a documentary about Tropical Rainforests and not surprising you have to go to the tropics. Many Horizon documentaries address specific subjects and have to travel to talk to researchers with specific knowledge or specific "large" experiments (e.g. LHC - and you have to travel overseas). So Cox's programs just blindly followed the formula without much thought and the result was a lot of tiresome irrelevant locations - and he had to start ad-libbing because there was not anything to really say relevant in the location they had chosen.

And when costs are so high and the BBC are prepared to spend on astronomy documentaries is is very disappointing they cannot spend sensibly and come up with something appropriate to the subject matter being presented.

I wonder how much the format adopted is victim to the modern day cult of celebrity. That you need a personality to front things, that Jonathan Ross (with associated massive costs) were thought necessary when there are loads of others better suited and more capable but not household names.

I also suspect that Cox's career has now peaked. Other BBC "equivalents" with some actually quite good presenters have come and now gone and those presenters are no longer in the public eye. I think the error Cox has made is that he has spent too long and been too "intense" with his TV personality career. It will end (probably soon) but the intensity means his academic career has sort of gone down the toilet. Others doing similar (from an academic background) have been less intense and continued their academic careers OK.
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Post by Paul Sutherland »

The BBC will be delighted that these programmes are "going wrong" so spectacularly. The first Wonders series "went wrong" so badly indeed that it sold to countries around the world, was a BBC2 ratings success and led to the commissioning of the follow-up series that has now begun. And Stargazing Live was such a terrible disaster that it achieved high ratings, boosted interest in astronomy among the public, led to planispheres becoming the best-selling item at Amazon, and to the BBC organising a second Stargazing Live for the autumn. I can only hope the follow-up "goes wrong" just as badly and so promotes astronomy even more, giving local societies and national ones like ours a further boost after years of declining memberships.

Paul
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Post by stella »

..and it's lead to people around the world believing that the Earth rotates
in 24 hours.
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Paul et al
I quite enjoyed "Wonders of the Solar System" myself, but still think the Stargazing series was rubbish.
However, as far as I'm concerned selling our TV programmes abroad isn't a good criteria for judging how good a programme is.
Best of luck from Cliff
David Frydman
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Post by David Frydman »

This topic certainly is generating controversy.
My attitude is if I don't like something on T.V. I switch the T.V.off or change to something I might like. If there is nothing I like on T.V. I will watch a film on DVD from the considerable number I got at a bargain price when the local video store closed.
I did watch Stargazing I didn't think it very good but I thought the general public might enjoy it.

What annoys me much more is that on commercial Freeview T.V.
a. all the channels are now synchronised so you cannot avoid the adverts. This is monopolistic.
b. The volume is MUCH higher on the adverts than the programme it interrupts. The advertisers deny this. Pull the other one.
I have got it beaten as I know to a few seconds how long the adverts last. I switch off and switch it back on just as the programme resumes.
c. BBC ADVERTS drive me nuts. They are not supposed to advertise but the repeatedly advertise their own mainly useless programmes.

I do watch some of the astro related programmes, but I find I have read most of the topics in the magazines I get. There are occasionaly ground breaking T.V. programmes but not often.

So yes I am sometimes grumpy as well, but I try not to be too much.

Regards, David.
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Post by Cliff »

Dear David
I tend to agree with most things you just said.
In very particular totally agree with you about the increase volume of sound when TV adverts are on show. Why they do it is a mystery to me, but if the TV companies deny it then it probably goes to prove what lying toads they may all be.
One thing you do that concerns me; if you turn off your telly every time the ads are displayed - could you possibly be reducing your telly's length of life ?
Best wishes from Cliff
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Post by David Frydman »

Dear Cliff,
The advertisers drastically increase the volume on purposeto bully us into buying their hair product to make me look more beautiful or to make my shirts whiter than white.
The T.V. is 26inch flat screen and several years old. I bought it because the quality of sound from the inbuilt speakers is good and that is 50% of the enjoyment.. I bought a cheaper I think Korean make and although the picture was good the 50 pence speakeres swere not.
I am probably decreasing the life of the T.V. by turning it on and off but the quality of my life is more important than the T.V. And my brother is giving me his 32 inch same make T.V. when mine fails.
I need that type as the connectors old fashioned are at the side and I cannot reach the back of the latest T.Vs to plucg in camera leads although I suppose I could leave a HDMI lead permanntly plugged in.
Basically I will not be bullied by these lying toads and prefer a shorter lived T.V.
As much in modern life the whole world is driven by greed although of course there are still good spirited folk around.
When I was active a handshake was all that was necessary for honest behaviour, and our front doors could be left open., Also kids played in the street and you could take photos in the street without being strung up as an undesirable.

Best regards, David.
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Post by Deimos »

David Frydman wrote:c. BBC ADVERTS drive me nuts. They are not supposed to advertise but the repeatedly advertise their own mainly useless programmes.
I would agree. Interestingly the excessive advertising of programs can be counter productive. There have recently been two dramas (actually on Channel 4) which, when the adverts first started I though I must watch that 'cos it looks really good. But by the time the program drama was actually broadcast I was sick to death of the program because of the long continually repeated ads for it and did not watch either and was glad they eventually were transmitted (so the ads could stop). One was something about growing old and another something about a girl making some promise about visiting Israel. Excessive advertising can be counter productive.
David Frydman wrote:b. The volume is MUCH higher on the adverts than the programme it interrupts. The advertisers deny this. Pull the other one.
I have got it beaten as I know to a few seconds how long the adverts last. I switch off and switch it back on just as the programme resumes.
I seem to remember the regulator looked into this several years ago and concluded that the sound was not louder - but rather manipulated to make it sound louder. Way beyond my understanding and it was some time ago but they reduce or boost low/mid/high range frequencies with means they can then claim the sound is "the same volume" when it sounds a lot lot louder. I don't know the definition of volume but I can see that, were volume defined as the peak level then clipping all the peaks off would not really affect the quality on TV speakers put would make everything a lot louder (whilst the peak levels were unchanged).

Ian

Ian
Deimos
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Post by Deimos »

David Frydman wrote:My attitude is if I don't like something on T.V. I switch the T.V.off or change to something I might like. If there is nothing I like on T.V. I will watch a film on DVD from the considerable number I got at a bargain price when the local video store closed.
I suppose I have two concerns (hence raising raising a different aspect of the topic). A bit political maybe but I don't like what has effectively become a compulsory subscription to the BBC. With Sky you get a choice to subscribe or not but subscribing to the BBC is compulsory. These days the BBC is effectively directly competing against the commercial broadcasters - doing loads of these B list celebrity type programs (X factor celebrity dancing on ice type of stuff). Were it making more specialised nice programs then there might be a different justification but they are just competing for viewers. etc.

Also, I am concerned about how the public perceive the astronomical community (and more generally the scientific community). This is particularly important when public services are being cut so dramatically and people are starting to notice unnecessary extravagance. Similarly, with student fee increases people are looking to waste and efficiencies in the academic communities. And people are aware that sending camera teams all over the world for things that can be achieved closer to home is expensive and when they are wondering if they will still have a job tomorrow ... it starts to reflect badly on the academic community (at least bankers think they justify their bonuses because of their "hard work"). And then they realise that they are actually paying for all that.

Of course not everybody will think that way but some will (and I cannot argue how many and I doubt other can either). But that some will can start to do damage to reputations.

Ian
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Post by brian livesey »

To return to the globe-trotting Professor, the BBC has packaged and marketed Brian Cox like a pop star. The Beeb, after all, is a profit-hungry business corporation and follows the hard-sell principle.
The narrative presentation of the "Wonders" reminds me of "Ripley's Mammoth Believe It Or Not". I agree with Ian, that this latest scientific star of the broadcasting firmament will, like a blue giant, burn out quickly. Patrick Moore approximates to a red dwarf, they just fade away.
Last edited by brian livesey on Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Ian et al
I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you and take sides with Joe and Davej on the issue of Prof Cox's commentary about the rotation of the Milky Way in the first part of the TV series "Wonders of the Universe".
I watched a recording last night and in my opinion it was quite obvious that Prof Cox was referring to the Solar System travels. So I think your (ie Ian's) criticism in that matter is unfair.
That said I cann't say I really enjoyed part one. However, since it was getting late when I watched and I fell asleep half way through and missed 10 minutes I need to watch it again when I'm fully awake !!!!!!!!!!
However, there's more - I was in our local Waterstones book store where the new "Wonders of the Universe" book was on sale at half price.
I saw two young ladies buying the book and had a quick word with them - asking if they were interested in astronomy. They both said they were having been inspired by Brian Cox's TV series. I asked them if they were members of any astronomical society - they said no. So I recommended they should consider joining the SPA -They seemed quite interested so I suggested they looked at the SPA website for more information.
They were both very nice polite young ladies.
Best wishes from Cliff
Best wishes from Cliff
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Post by Paul Sutherland »

Well done for the guerilla tactics promoting the SPA, Cliff. Glad you didn't get yourself arrested!

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Post by Greywolf »

Well first off I really have no time for television in general and we got rid of ours years ago. This means I can pick and choose the programmes I watch using my iPad. I have actually stopped trying to install iPlayer on my computer.

With regards to the 'Wonders...' I am speaking here very much as an amateur but also as a professional primary school teacher.

If you want to communicate something well then you need a good communicator. Brian Cox is not only very knowledgeable but an excellent communicator. Not only that but he allows us in to his own sense of wonder at the immensity of the universe and and that makes his message appealing.
I cannot count the number of times I have listened to very knowledgeable people speaking about their subject with absolutely no regard to their audience. Too fast, too much information. too technical. Not technical enough. There are countless ways of getting it wrong. I think Cox does a pretty good job.

It is perhaps unrealistic to expect very erudite people within a field to find a lot appeal in a program which is designed to be of interest to the average member of the general public. I'm not sure why such people would imagine that a programme like Wonders.. would be of interest to them.

There is no doubt from my perspective as a teacher, that Brian Cox's programs have generated a lot of interest in space and that can only be good.

As has already been said. If you don't like it, don't watch it
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Paul.
I haven't been arrested - well not yet.
I did wonder if the two young ladies might just give me the brush off. I deliberately kept my "advice" very brief so as not to bore them to death.
The one thing I forgot to tell them was that Prof Cox is an SPA member - I think that would have guaranteed both ladies joining the SPA. Unfortunately I doubt if my "mature" appearance would be much encouragement to join.
I should mention I actually bought Prof Cox's "Wonders of the Universe" book myself - not bad at special offer half price.
Best wishes from Cliff
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Post by David Frydman »

I would have asked at least one of them for a date. An astronomer girlfriend can't be bad. But like you being mature and in my case not very fit, this might have not been accepted.
But I haven't given up yet.
As I think Norman Tebbit, a pilot and MP I think once said to a young lady.
I may be too old for you, but you are not too young for me.
Only daydreaming. But I have not gone out with an astronomer girlfriend.
There are too few women in astronomy.

Regards, David.
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