Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Nano Revolution: Definitely Must See TV
It's entirely appropriate that executive producer Michael Allder ends his 14-year stewardship of The Nature Of Things with his most brilliant production.
It's the three part miniseries The Nano Revolution which jump starts NOT's 51st season making it the longest lasting scripted series on CBC-TV.
And it only took five years to get this incredibly complicated co-production between CBC, Japan's NHK and France/Germany's Arte to come together.
The long wait was worth it.
The animation alone dazzles underpinning a provocative look at the important new world of nanotechnology that will soon transform all our lives in many fundamental ways.
"I don't believe in talking down to TV viewers," Allder is telling me in a telephone conversation. "Certainly we didn't do so our last big co-venture and the result was high ratings and pretty wonderful reviews."
The Nano Revolution literally takes us inside the world of the infinitesimally small and let's us listen in to dazzling conversations with the leading scientific authorities in the field on three continents.
the field of endeavor is always shifting from University of Toronto to the Sahara desert to an Edinburgh heart clinic to a medical practitioner in Italy.
Scientists talk routinely of examining matter that is 80,000 times smaller than a human hair and the world they are discovering can be manipulated for mankind's betterment in all sorts of ways.
"I couldn't have done this one without Skype technology technology," Allder jokes. "I communicated almost every day for years with the co-producers in France and Japan. My call time was 8 a.m. but in Japan it would be 10 p.m. It took a tremendous amount of patience and energy just to get us through. Planning was everything."
The first hour, Welcome To Nano City, outlines the scientific breakthroughs of the science of the minuscule and how complicated control of matter can open up a whole range of great possibilities.
Nano technology can control everything and reach areas denied traditional limits. The effect on everyday life could be tremendous. But there are real concerns how much privacy we'll have to give up to enter this brave new world.
"This one was very expensive to do," Allder explains. "And one broadcaster couldn't try it alone. I've done a few other projects that were 50-50 partnerships--the Geologic Journey is an example. But this one had three equal parties. We worked well together. I think we were true to the original objectives. And I just think part of the formula is respecting the audience."
One use of nano technology is seen in a Mexican city where the drinking water is tinged with arsenic. Using the new techniques the injection of nano cells can significantly erase the arsenic and make the water safe for human consumption.
The second hour on Thurs. Oct. 20 really revs up the excitement. Titled More Than Human it looks at the medical revolution that is right around the corner.
Nano technology can deliver treatment directly to afflicted cells which has great importance with cancer victims. Treatment would then become personalized enabling the nano cells top roam freely through a patient's body. And nano technology is leading the way in advanced tissue engineering as well as stem cell therapy.
The third hour Will Nano Save The Planet (on Thurs. Oct. 27) shows how nano technology could battle pollution concerns and help clean up the wastes of the industrialized age.
The images are dazzling but the comments of the scientists are just as remarkable. One British physicist wanders through the ruins of a gigantic British plant in London abandoned because of asbestos poisoning. He says only 80 years ago this was the latest in technology. And he can't say for certain what the world will be like 80 years from now for his grandchildren.
But The Nano Revolution isn't just about new wave science. One amusing segment shows how the intrusion into our daily lives might drive some people crazy. A woman out for a stroll gets bombarded with ads all specifically tailored to her personality. A man can't even get a restaurant reservation because he refuses to wear his nano chip.
"We had to synthesize three different cultures to get this one documentary mini-series" Allder says."The animation came from Japan and right when we needed it to come together the tsunami knocked out production for six weeks. When one has three directors the results can take some time to coalesce. It was quite a jigsaw.
"And I think the ultimate question will be who is going to own things. People owning this information will be powerful. That's the biggest concern of all."
When Allder took over as executive producer of the Nature Of Things 14 years ago he succeeded the near legendary Jim Murray who was definitely a hands on executive. Allder had little trouble holding on to that gold standard of excellence and even taking NOT into a new realm of co-productions that increased its reputation.
Allder he'll definitely continue to make quality co-productions calling on the best from public broadcasters everywhere.
"It's really the only way for this kind of television to go."
THE NANO REVOLUTION PREMIERES ON THE NATURE OF THINGS ON CBC-TV THURS. OCT. 13 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.