Wonders of Life

Sun Jan 27, 9-10pm, BBC2

Series one, episode one
Brian Cox is back. And he still smiles with his mouth rather than his eyes. The uncharitable thought persists that Cox isn’t quite enough of a personality to employ so many presentational gimmicks. But ultimately, that doesn’t matter. Anyone who pours his heart into explaining evolution, DNA, thermodynamics and entropy on primetime TV and gets anywhere near to pulling it off is okay by us. This new series begins with the intriguing question: what is it that makes something alive? For the next hour, you’ll have to concentrate. Brian whistles through proton gradients and photosynthesis. He travels from the Philippines to Borneo. He goes scuba diving and isolates DNA with washing-up liquid. He smiles a lot, but only with his mouth. But by the end, his work is done. You feel a little smarter.