TV: The Entire Universe, BBC2

Noel Fielding as a shiny gold Bee Gee singing about gravity? That’s just one of the many delights of this truly odd programme which mixes music, comedy and science in a way that has rarely been done before. The Sky At Night this ain’t.

Eric Idle is the notional ringmaster, explaining that the programme is a new Rutland Weekend Television show. But The Entire Universe seems to bear little relation to Idle’s post-Python 1970s BBC vehicle in which he fronted a shoestring TV channel. There is not much shoestring about this return.

Professor Brian Cox thinks he has been hired to deliver a lecture only to discover that he is fronting an all-singing, all-dancing musical talk and has to wear a sparkly jacket (and, at one point, a red dress…). Cox is a natural TV performer, making heavyweight science accessible, and also a natural comedian, forming some decent ad hoc double acts with the rest of the cast, which includes amazonian singer Hannah Waddingham, Cox’s Infinite Monkey Cage wingman Robin Ince, Warwick Davis and the aforementioned Noel Fielding.

In fact it is Fielding who pretty much steals the show, having a whale of a time as the piratical “Higgs Boson”, who greets Cox with a playfully provocative “Huge fan, love your astrology”. He also plays Einstein and one of the golden Gibb siblings. Warwick Davis is also a key multitasker, representing the Big Bang and Schrodinger’s Cat among other roles. Robin Ince, meanwhile, helps Idle to hold things together gives good Isaac Newton, who is hit on the head by an Apple (Mac). 

I’m not sure how much I learnt from this show, except that statistically we are very lucky to exist. It’s a bit sprawling at times, but it is certainly never boring. Just when you think you know what is going on the rug is pulled and things go off at a tangent. Astronaut Tim Peake even pops in and almost upstages everyone. And did I mention the Morecambe and Wise lookalikes? As I said, it’s pretty sprawling. But very watchable. It is not every day that you see Brian Cox in a red dress.

Watch on iPlayer here.

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