Comedy or tragedy?

I’m not sure which is funnier. A few days ago, we were alerted (sorry, I can’t find where) to the imminentness of Lab Rats (first flagged up to NN by Scott Keir), the new BBC filmed-before-a-studio-audience (uh-oh) sitcom, set in a laboratory, and starting tonight on BBC2. A couple of clips on BBC Breakfast this morning didn’t bode too well (aside from a dig at the arrogance of the ‘big cheese’, which stirred a smile): that typical potentially-good-lines-ruined-by-bad-acting/poor-delivery thing that blights much BBC comedy (paradoxical, when you consider that it has also given us much of our best).

Slightly earlier, I caught this morning’s ‘Thought for the (bloody) Day’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today, which made me sit up so fast I nearly spilt my pecans and raspberries. If you didn’t catch it, you might still be able to listen to Oliver McTernan here , or peruse the text here.

Now, we can’t expect a cheaply-produced sitcom to reflect the real-life lab experience, which is, as Chris Addison stated during his Breakfast plug interview, often a ‘drudge’ that doesn’t make for good comedy (Hmmm, or does it? There’s plenty to be had round here some days…). So, people, let’s not sneeringly and loftily sit down this evening determined to hate Lab Rats. It is a condensed, exaggerated caricature and should not be taken seriously – the first criterion, being a comedy, is whether it makes us laugh.

Similarly, we should not expect our worthy, eminent Tft-b-D contributor to be able, in two-and-a-half minutes, to articulate at length exactly what he wants to make us think about. So how did McTernan resolve this? Why, with a good old Catholic anti-science sideswipe is how. His first line was an alarmist allusion to the blurring of species boundaries. He then leapt to compare the scientific pursuit of knowledge with Eve’s temptation. There you have it, you scientists – you’re just deceitful serpents. Best not bother, so that the populace can stay all twee and ignorant.

So, if you end today worried about the ‘public image of science’, don’t be irked by Lab Rats, whether good or bad. It’s only right and proper that we scientist’s have the piss taken out of us once in a while. Instead, if you’re really concerned about such things, you might consider other directions in which to vent your steam.

Anyway, talking of venting, the BBC this morning also provided us with evidence of how real science can be seriously funny.


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