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Naming a new science programme

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Alexandra Feachem 18:30, Friday, 2 October 2009

Monkey Raygun

We've got a new programme in the works. It's an irreverent, witty, unashamedly opinionated science show with physicist and former pop sensation Brian Cox and comedian and science enthusiast Robin Ince. But what shall we call it?

Less than two months until first transmission and even more alarmingly, only one week until our first publicity deadline and still no title - ahh! How, in just a few words, do you convey all that the comedy genius of Brian Cox and the physics know-how of Robin Ince (or is that the other way round?) will bring to the greatest science show you'll ever hear... and I'm not biased obviously, I'm just the producer.

The Science Unit have been mulling hard and it turns out that we are a lot funnier then we thought - or at least we think we are - it is very hard to tell now. Early favourites included several plays on already established titles including I'm sorry I Haven't a Clone and Drop the Dead Dolly. Some truly terrible puns emerged including The Abi Titmus Test (vetoed for fairly obvious reasons), and Here's looking at Euclid which is so bad it's almost brilliant.

Well known science phrases have been put to good use: Particle Zoo, Periodically Funny (we could shoot ourselves in the foot with that one - suppose we aren't?!), and The Infinite Variables have all made the short-list. And our working title of Top Geek, a sneaky nod to our ambition to do to science what Jeremy Clarkson has done for cars, and never meant as a serious consideration, has turned out to be a surprise contender, although it does seem to be the Marmite of titles - loved or hated (more candidate names here). Robin came up with the genius title of The Infinite Monkey Cage. It's so weird its sort of perfect and is certainly a favourite amongst the production team and the Science Unit... but does it tell us what the programme is about and does it matter?

And Mohit Bakaya, who commissions science programmes for Radio 4, adds:

More generally, the issue of titles is an interesting one. In the age of podcasting and iPlayer it makes sense for titles to have that 'Ronseal' quality - to do exactly what they say on the tin. That way people searching for business programmes, for example, know what they're in for when they come across In Business. But what about The Bottom Line? Would they know that that would be of interest too?

Yet sometimes purely descriptive titles can seem a little prosaic. How does one convey attitude, wit, something new and different and be recognisable in the age of the internet? That's the challenge!



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