Monday, October 14, 2013
Myth Or Science: A CBC-TV Winner
"Yes, I'm back again," giggles Dr. Jennifer Gardy on the line to promote the new TV special Myth Or Science: The Quest For Perfection.
It runs on CBC-TV's The Nature Of Things Thursday October 17 at 8 p.m.
Viewers are excused for wondering if the format seems more than a little familiar.
"We did one of these two seasons back," Gardy reports. "It got one of the highest ratings of the year on NOT and was especially popular with young viewers."
For whatever reason CBC took its time in ordering a sequel. But in this case the wait was worth it.
The second hour is even better made and so tightly edited you won't be able to turn away.
And it's such an attractive package CBC could have a popular spin off series if it wants.
I've caught Gardy on TV before --she sometimes guest hosts on Discovery's science shows. She's mighty attractive with a way of engaging audiences without talking down to them.
And in Myth Or Science she makes each experiment spring to life because she's game enough to get physically involved.
In one test she's put up against a slightly chubbier girl to test who is more physically fit. Gardy is leaner and more muscular and the endurance matches are fun to watch.
"In our society it's a case of thin is in. But that's a body ideal. We get to test the reality of being fit."
"The idea is to confront popular myths, test them and see if they are true or not. I was astonished several times and I'm in the myth busting business."
I'm honor bound not to reveal the ending but it was a huge surprise to me.
To film episodes Gardy travelled to various Canadian universities to interview medical scientists about their latest work. This melange of talking heads could have turned deadly dull except that Gardy talks their language and manages to get the academics at ease.
""I talked a lot to them before we filmed anything. I had to get them completely at ease and that sometimes took time. We wanted to capture their enthusiasm."
Gardy says the crew (Jeff Semple directed from a script by executive producer Dugald Maudsley for Infield Fly Productions) started with a long list of "20 to 30 myths and that got boiled down. But certainly there's enough material for a series. For example: are tanning beds addictive?"
But is it just me or does McMaster University get pride of place this time out --I'm speaking as an old Hamiltonian.
"Certainly there's a lot of great projects going on there right now," laughs Gardy. "Which is pretty impressive for a medium sized university."
One experiment looks at whether exercise can reverse the aging process, a relevant topic in a society where the number of people over 60 will triple by the year 2050.
And , yes, the study does start with sedentary mice before turning to people.
Says Gardy: "Everything here is grounded in good science--that's what makes the hour."
Gardy willingly volunteered for the experiment to show short, intense workouts are just as good as longer endurance trials. "I think this will make everybody rethink the physical fitness thing. As will the thesis that fit means thin.
"You see science is hard to film. I think we got it right here with the challenges I had to undertake."
I tell her surely the toughest moment must have come when she is ordered to chew a raw brussels sprout but she says "No, it was the indoor snowboarding --that really threw me."
I first spotted Grady as a co-host on the short lived CBC series Project X.
"We ran Thursdays at 7:30 and CBC cancelled when the network bought the rights to Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy."
Other myths confronted include the story that cooking foods destroys nutrients, that coffee is good for you and the segment I felt worked the best --that music can repair brain damage.
I chatted up Dr. Gardy on the phone the day before she left for a conference in Europe. Her day job finds her leading the Genome British Columbia research lab at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver.
"I spent a total of about 3 1/2 weeks on this one. In my job there's a lot of delegating if I have to be away for several days at a time. TV is something I like doing in sort bursts. For me it's all a balancing act. .
"I'm hoping there's more installments of Myth Or Science --I think the topics are there. I get to do a lot of heavy lifting, that's the challenge for me."
MYTH OR SCIENCE: THE QUEST FOR PERFECTION PREMIERES ON CBC-TV's THE NATURE OF THINGS THURSDAY OCTOBER 17 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.