Brian Cox’s Night With The Stars Review: Cox Unplugged

BRIAN COX’S NIGHT WITH THE STARS: Sunday 18th December, BBC2, 9pm

There really isn’t much to say about Brian Cox that hasn’t already been said. Apart from the fact that he’s deceptively camp… Brilliant, but camp. There, I said it. No matter, because this evening, the man who made physics cool again.. (by physics, of course I mean the physics involved in explaining the stars and space. Proper physics without awesome visual props like Mayan Temples or massive icebergs will never be cool) ..treats us to an old-school lecture. Anyone who’s seen his live show Uncaged Monkeys has raved about it, but could he translate that to a more casual TV audience? Wowing the masses with well-edited theory and stunning vistas on TV is easy, but like a successful comedy actor trying his hand at stand-up, this was another ball game entirely. Yet with the help of a blackboard, a few scientific experiments and a roomful of celebrities, Cox repeats the trick and proves that if you have an appetite for it, physics is captivating when it’s presented thus.

If he was a musician (as he was in his former life) this would be Cox playing a small and intimate acoustic gig, yet while the various ‘slebs in the auditorium could be relied upon to lap it all up, it will be interesting to see how many Wonders.. viewers he converts to retains at the next level here. There’s no doubt that some of the more ambivalent viewers won’t make it very far through this one, but the Beeb should be commended for indulging the discerning and knowledge-hungry audiences that Cox awakened over the last couple of years.

In essence this is simply a ‘Further Wonders..’ class, with some of the ideas he touched upon there getting more treatment here. His main prop is a priceless diamond, which serves as a good yardstick for all atom-based discussions (being that it’s one of the densest substances on the planet) but later on he nearly sets James May on fire and asks Jonathan Ross to complete an equation similar to the one above. An experience he describes as “the worst thing that’s ever happened to him as an adult”..