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Review - Geek chic comes and goes in waves

The Past five years have seen a completely unpredicted burst of interest in physics, with the numbers of pupils taking an A-level in the subject jumping by 20 per cent. Many explanations have been posited for this (Brian Cox for one), but the latest is the subject's "rebranding" in The Big Bang Theory.

Could it be that this US sitcom, which follows the (mis)adventures of four 20-something physicists, is doing for the least glamorous of subjects what millions of pounds of Government marketing could not?

The E4 show, now in its fifth series, is, if the two episodes I watched are anything to go by, severely hit and miss.

The hit is displayed in the episode The Wiggly Finger Catalyst (available on 4 On Demand), which sees the main storyline unfold without even a mention of an atom. The only reference to physics comes in the sub-plot, in which one of the key protagonists lets a dice make trivial decisions for him, freeing his mind for more important things. Thus, he says, he saves enough time to fix the Large Hadron Collider.

Perhaps surprisingly, the characters are reminiscent of those in Friends (substitute coffee-shop banter for Dungeons and Dragons). While they are undeniably nerdy, it is in a hip Brian Cox-style way, and so it is not difficult to imagine how it might attract teenagers to physics. Top marks so far.

The good work unravels, however, in The Russian Rocket Reaction (broadcast next Thursday), which is heavier on science and lighter on reasons to watch. Jokes about a "Schrodinger's cat relationship" - to like and dislike someone at the same time - are funny, but the science seems shoehorned in and the characters appear to have dropped geek chic for bumbling ineptitude.

Still, it is probably worth showing it to your Year 11s if you are a head of physics.

The Big Bang Theory, E4 at 8pm on Thursdays.

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