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Universe: Brian Cox’s OTT Space Odyssey falls short of Attenborough | TV & radio

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II tried to figure out who, based on the determining factors that shaped the pivot of Professor Brian Cox’s career from keyboardist to astrophysicist, might be our next teacher Brian Cox. We all know his origin story now: Cox was a traveling member of the Anglo-Irish pop-rock group D: Ream, only now remembered for the adopted New Labor anthem. Things can only get better. TCOGB was first published in 1993; Cox’s career in broadcasting peaked in 2010, a gap of about 17 years. This means that our ideal candidate will have released a single – which performed well, but did not lead to a sustained high profile music career – somewhere between January 2003 and December 2004.

David Sneddon of Fame Academy is one of the first to be among the first, with his January 2003 record Stop Living the Lie. Justin from The Darkness and Paul from S Club 7 (who left the band during the January 2003 qualifying period – that’s very Coxien to me) are both in the game, as is Daniel Bedingfield. One of my personal preferences is Charlie from Busted, who in 2003 was ascendant, in 2004 was huge and in 2005 was gone to form Fightstar – a perfect microcosmic music career in our parameters. But looking at it realistically, the only contender is former Pop Idol winner Will Young, who has a lovely soft voice, is very likeable to BBC Two (he’s been on Gardeners’ World twice before) and has a 2: 2 in a boring (political) topic. If we can speed up Will Young for a PhD, we’re good to go.

‘Where there is light, there is darkness’ … Universe. Photograph: Lola Post Production / BBC

Until then, we have Universe (Wednesday, 9 p.m., BBC Two), a new four-part series in which Cox looks at the sky a lot and says “wow”. You now know Cox’s shtick – a pure sense of wonder rarely expressed on terrestrial television! Intellectual content designed for people who can’t stand watching another competitive dance performance! Speak… really… slowly! While I can see the call, for me, personally, it squeaks. Maybe I’m just too stupid for the stars to be explained to me by someone dressed like the main character in a PS2-era action-adventure game. Maybe that’s because it feels like 17 minutes of curiosity spread over a painfully long 58-minute show. Maybe deep down I just want to watch someone from Made in Chelsea do the cha-cha. But Universe doesn’t feel like it’s going to do for space what Attenborough did for insects, although you can see from the value of production that they really want it.

The problem with space, of course, is that it is far away and costs billions of dollars to document. Even when NASA handles it, the photos of solar flares always come back as if they had been taken on CCTV just before a really good chip shop fight. The universe gets around this problem by generously computer generating much of what we see on the screen. Tendrils bloom across a murky abyss as Cox explains the “cosmic web” that precedes the stars; a render of a red dwarf burning in the dark as Cox talks about mass and gravity. But that workaround can lead to the same hollow feeling you get when watching an overly CGI blockbuster: yes, the Avengers may have defeated the New York-destroying monster, but what was actually there? While the Universe is associated with some gorgeous drone photos of a planet you may know – hint, you’re there right now – much of it is voiceover and an enlightened imagination of it. what space looks like. Your personal mileage will vary depending on the claustrophobia you are experiencing.

It doesn’t help that Cox’s voiceover continues to veer into territory “an impromptu performance of a poem derails the whole college party.” Sometimes Cox talks about the sun like he’s trying to lure you into selling your house and donating it to live on a farm with him, worshiping him. “But even the gods are not immortal,” he said, very slowly, about 40 minutes after the first episode started, and although I admit I was looking at a text notification I had just received at the time. , I didn’t really know what he was talking about. “Where there is light, there is darkness. I know, I know: it’s good that the TV stations still do shows for people who have a vague idea of ​​what a trillion is, or how infinitely improbable life on Earth is. But I’m clearly not one of them. Call me when Will Young finishes his Masters.


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