One glance at this recent BBC One documentary series looking at the wonders of the human body and you can just picture the TV execs huddled around the desk contemplating a bold ‘event’ documentary delving inside ourselves.
One, wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a casual suit with top button undone and no tie, suggests the show should have lots of slow-motion close-up shots of athletes doing fantastic things. The other, indistinguishable except for a stud in one ear, excited by this notion, suggests that every single scene should have background music treading the line between ‘ethereal’ and ‘awe-struck’, y’know, something like Brian Eno (again). Cutting edge graphics will serve to appeal to the kids with their iPhones and their Twitters, because, God knows, they can’t possibly focus their attention on anything without this. You get the picture.
Inside The Human Body, a show clearly aimed at dumbing down human biology for the mass audience, is presented by the likeable actual medical doctor Michael Mosley, who has just the right blend of compassion, fascination and genuine interest in his subject to perhaps carry the show. Covering major human life events, such as birth, death and disease, alongside key functions of our bodies’ organs, the USP is that it demonstrates, using state-of-the-art digital animations, exactly what happens, why, and how, thus transporting the viewer ‘Inside The Human Body’. The whole shebang is interlaced with case studies based on real people, lending a decent human attachment to the potentially alienating scientific terminology used. All well and good, then. Well, not really.
Though Mosley is a strong, credible presenter that the viewer should immediately warm to, unfortunately, Inside The Human Body is far too clichéd to succeed. The impressive graphics – with ridiculously overblown, portentous music, as if to say “look, these effects cost us more than your salary” – too often come across as laughable. The human case studies provoke some genuine raw emotion (a dying cancer patient’s stoicism is very touching), though the over-use of tenuously-linked footage of athletes and day-to-day scenes evoke more of a feeling of science show spoof Look Around You, complete with similar-sounding voiceover.
Worst of all, the show makes a criminal mistake in giving us examples of extraordinary human beings, such as the ‘iceman’ of Iceland, who can survive in sub-zero water long after any normal person would have died, or the woman who literally only eats packs of beef Monster Munch for breakfast, lunch and dinner, yet remains somehow alive and not seemingly in terrible (although flawed) health. This would be fascinating were there any attempt to explain some of the biology behind the adaptations these people’s bodies have made, rather than just gloss over them with the usual “isn’t the human body amazingly adaptable?” schtick.
Overall, though the scientific explanations are clear, concise and well made, the feeling after watching Inside The Human Body is that is almost offensive. Patronising and absurd, presenting the already incredible facts about human biology with such ridiculous packaging detracts from much of the logical wonder at nature’s glory.
Released on DVD on Monday 30th May 2011 by 2entertain.