With the growth in popularity of 'reality' television series and hard-nosed quiz shows continuing unabated, it's good to see that chemistry has not been neglected

With the growth in popularity of ’reality’ television series and hard-nosed quiz shows continuing unabated, it’s good to see that chemistry has not been neglected. After all, what better way to introduce the science to a younger generation and to ensure that some will take up the challenge of academic research? Here are just a few of the offerings coming up on some of the further-flung digital channels in the next few months: 

  • William Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares The great grandfather of Noble Gas chemistry returns to offer his typically blunt and uncompromising advice to failing eateries around the country. He’s never one to pull his punches and this week an impecunious Rochdale sea-food restaurant comes under his foul-mouthed scrutiny. Re-branding it The Full Shelland plastering the interior with gaudy neon signs, the hard work eventually pays off when he returns a few months later to find it has been awarded two stars in the prestigious Argon Ronay Guide. 
  • Lab swap We’ve not seen the preview tapes for this yet but no doubt chaos ensues when a straight-laced quantum theorist swaps labs with an alcoholic combinatorial chemist.  
  • X-ray factor More would-be crystallographers set out to wow the judges in a series of nerve-wracking auditions. As usual the panel prove to be remorseless as they let the contestants make fools of themselves and then castigate them for it. However, possibly with an eye to the ratings boost such controversy can induce, recent shows have drawn complaints that honest criticism has given way to downright viciousness. Indeed, last week’s episode was deemed by many irate viewers to have gone too far when one poor girl was reduced to tears upon being told she’d spent the past 30 minutes working in the wrong space-group (something the sadists on the panel had smugly realised immediately on seeing the preliminary data set). 
  • Pop indole Similar in theme to the above, this ratings winner returns on its seemingly never ending quest for the next big thing in heterocyclic chemistry. 
  • Pimp my pump This week it’s more ’rotary vain’ than ’rotary vane’ as a battered Edwards high vacuum system that has seen many better days gets the full treatment. Pump-faster stripes, alloy blades, miniature windscreen wiper on the oil-level window and a glow in the dark mist filter all make for the perfect pimped-up pump. Tellingly, rumours that a spin-off series, Pimp My Pirani Gauge, is in production have not been denied. 
  • The weakest linkage Long-range hydrogen bonds, agostic interactions and Van der Waals force all brave the acid-tongued host. But can anyone beat the current champ, the Casimir effect? 
  • Celebrity glove island Powdered or non-powdered? Blue nitrile or protein-free? Heavy-duty neoprene or Kevlar? It’s all go on the island as for better or worse our six remaining celebrity castaway chemists have made their choices and they’re going to have live with them. A quick phone call on a premium-rate line is all it takes for you to help whittle it down to five.  

As for the king of reality shows, Big Brother, well the scientific version has been running for a while now. However, the decision to assemble great names from the past has backfired. After all, there’s only so many times some insomniac viewer wants to see Kekul? banging on about snakes in his sleep; likewise, a morose looking Robert Oppenheimer mumbling about being ’the destroyer of worlds’ loses a bit of impact when he’s done it for the fifth time that week in the diary room. That said, Joseph Priestley is always good for a laugh and the Marie Curie/Paul Langevin ’are they, aren’t they’ thing has kept the tabloids happy for weeks now. How they’ll all react next week when golden ticket winner Richard Feynman turns up with his bongos is anyone’s guess!