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Wonders of Life

Sun Feb 3, 9-10pm, BBC2

Stephen Cooter
Series one, episode two
For those more accustomed to Brian Cox wading through the hearts of neutron stars or toothily goggling at the spine-bending weirdness of the universe, this new, Earth-bound series in which he wades through the mud of the Mississippi and goggles toothily about the camouflage skills of the octopus can’t help but feel like a slight backward step. In and of itself, however, Brian’s cheerily awed investigation into the whys and wherefores of life on Earth delivers a more scientific twist on a familiar formula.

Dark, twangy alt.country lopes through the soundtrack as we follow our feathercut Passepartout hooking a catfish, scudding across the Everglades on a fanboat and scuba diving off the coast of California in the company of a mantis shrimp (an unassuming little bottom feeder with a vicious one-inch punch and a bonkers double-trinocular vision) in order to investigate how the senses of taste, hearing and sight have developed. Cox’s sweary self-deprecation and the occasional interjection from the film crew keep things buoyant, but ultimately the whole thing feels like a place-holder until Brian’s next blast-off into the firmament.

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