Journey to the edge

I am convinced that National Geographic  is completely dumbed down in the US and much worse than it is in India.   I only wonder why.

The other day, they were showing a great documentary about the Beslan crisis in NatGeo in India. Over here, it was probably something like “Secrets of the Kung Fu Temple”.

It’s not that I am missing out on good shows when I am not watching NatGeo.  The daytime hours are filled with “Dog Whisperer” and “Seconds from Disaster”.

Why does NatGeo feel the need to show all these mindless programs?  The viewers who want mindless programs are anyway watching  E! or one of those endless reality shows that every other channel seems to be filled with.  And viewers who want to see cute puppies can always switch to Animal Planet anyway.

Then there’s Science Channel.  Don’t even get me started on Science Channel.  They do have some good shows like “How it’s made”, but their daily programming also includes “Junkyard Wars” which is all about racing souped up vehicles.   Obviously, if you stretch the definition enough, everything is Science.

The last good show I watched on any of these channels was “When we left Earth”,  a lovely documentary of  US efforts to put a man in orbit, and then on the Moon.  But that documentary is now available for sale as a CD, and makes me question whether I should simply buy CDs of the rare good shows and stop my subscription to NatGeo and Science channel.

NatGeo’s “Journey to the edge of the Universe” sounded like one of those rare good shows, and sure enough, I was impressed as soon as I started watching it.  It looks like the usual computer-generated graphics, I thought to myself, but at least it is realistic looking graphics.  I watched Jupiter and Saturn and Titan and Triton, and the images were beautiful.

pillars-of-creation

"Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula

(Picture courtesy: NASA, Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

But it wasn’t until I saw the “Pillars of Creation” that I sat up with a start.  I knew exactly where I had seen this picture before! This wasn’t graphics at all! This show was using actual NASA images to show planets and galaxies!  Best of all, it makes you feel as if you are watching these galaxies from inside a spaceship.

After that, I was hooked.  The show talks about pulsars and quasars and black holes in a very astrophysics-for-beginners way, and it does not talk down to you.  Even if you don’t learn anything new from the show, trust me, you will really enjoy the experience.

You will find yourself journeying to the edge of your seat, if not the universe ;)

I only wish I could watch this in an IMAX theater with 3D glasses.

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12 Comments

  1. I used to be a big Discovery Channel nerd when I was in high school in India (back when “Beyond 2000″ was referring to sometime in the future.) Somehow, when I moved to the US, I found the Discovery Channel to be shockingly low on scientific content. I like PBS; they seem to give the audience some credit.

    Yes, Discovery here is quite bad too :(

  2. The more I understand the ‘offerings’ of American MSM, the better I understand Americans. :-/ No wonder when I visit, I find myself scrambling to find BBC World Service.

    I used to think that too, until I realized that BBC America is even worse – except for the news segments, the rest is just an attempt to ape the worst of HGTV – stuff like “Cash in the Attic” :(

  3. It is just that the TV Channel have to increase viewership in order to survive. Yeah, I never understoon some of those crappy shows in science and Nat Geo. But there are some good shows that come up once a while, there was once a show about real superheroes who can taste music or see colors of music, that was a fascinating show. The science of superman, spiderman all those are commercial, yet very informative shows.

    I missed that one :( I guess this is what happens if you rarely show good programs – even your good shows don’t get as many viewers as they deserve :(

  4. PBS is better that way. They had a lot of good shows like Einstein’s Relativity and String theory, Newton and his works. But yeah generally speaking NGC does suck here in the US. I watch Modern marvels a lot and everyonce in a blue moon they have some good shows about world wars and such

    I remember watching the String Theory one! Was that on PBS? Yes, it was a great show, I loved it.

  5. Ugh..canceled my subscription to those channels a long time ago and don’t regret it one bit. There’s always the DVDs in the public library.

    Someone mentioned PBS – “Nova” is a very good show and probably the only one I catch regularly.

    //fond memories of Sagan’s “Cosmos”.

    Public library DVDs – great idea. I don’t borrow DVDs as much as I should..
    I have watched “Nova” a few times, but unfortunately, it’s not a very regular offering, and I never manage to watch it when it’s on :(

  6. Ohh yess!! I trust channel 9. talk about the travel shows, celtic music, food shows like check please, or science programs. they are good.
    But I need NatGeo, Discovery, HistChannel, Bio. They have wonderful shows, just not always ;-)
    Thanks for sharing.

    Every time I think of canceling my subscription, they come up with a good show that makes me postpone canceling. But one good show every few months is not often enough :(

  7. Oh, to make such things interesting, you need Douglas Adams, Stephen King et al. :)

    Trust me, the more you learn about space, the more you’ll find that your own imagination can supply endless possibilities. Reading a Douglas Adams or a Ray Bradbury will only whet that imagination.

  8. Lekhni

    I guess BBC America serves up what the general public wants. BBC World Service – which we cannot access in the UK – has Hard Talk, Digital Planet, Culture Shock on TV and some pretty good discussions on radio service too (a bit like Riz Khan’s programme used to be on CNN, only BBC’s moderation is much better).

    However I must say that in the UK, the BBC’s offerings are pretty clear. Radio 4 and BBC 4 is where you head for good consistent cerebral stuff; rest is popular drama and other ‘entertainment’ with some surprises like Spooks or Coast to Coast etc. We also have Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with Stars in the US I believe, it is the BBC’s most profitable format export).

    Barbaad e gulistaan karne ko bas ek hee ullu kaafi tha
    har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai, anjaam e gulistaan kya hoga… 8-)
    Why do channels pander to the lowest common denominator, I wonder? If you try to please everyone, you usually end up pleasing no one, and you become incredibly boring. At least, that’s what seems to be happening to PBS. The Beeb’s format of having multiple channels addressing different target audiences might be a much better idea.

  9. I for one, am surprised by the turn The History Channel has taken. Now it’s a fact that you can only flog the history horse for a while, and after that everyone gets sick of Hitler… But History Channel is now Fox History or something and nearly all their programming is in the form of low budget historical movies. And they take a very broad definition for Historical.

    I don’t watch THC much now… discovered some great history podcasts and listen to that during commuting.

    The History Channel is a great concept – too bad they are killing it :( I guess it’s just sheer lack of imagination – I am sure there are lot of good things they can do on a low budget, instead of those awful, boring historical movies..

  10. Maybe its to make mass audiences feel that they are clever enough to understand an intellectual channel? ( you know like some fashion brands do – mark a larger sized S/M so that M/L think they are actually thinner) – gets viewer eyeballs that ways no?

    That would work – if mass audiences in the US think being able to understand an intellectual channel (or even a channel that requires above-average intelligence) is a good thing. Unfortunately, the general public thinks knowing anything about science (or math or history) is not “cool”. You don’t want to be seen as nerdy or geeky, so you’re better off not knowing how many planets the solar system has. If you talk to them about Titan, they’ll think you are referring to the NFL team (the Tennessee Titans).

  11. Pingback: The Awards Cometh | amreekandesi.com

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