The Cambridge Geek

Crash Course

It's pilot time again, this time revolving around the madcap world of cramming for exams.

David Tyler hosts, and gives four panellists a textbook on a given topic (and theoretically additional reading), which they have 24 hours to memorise and then recite to a rapt audience. But if you think listening to a panel tell you everything they can remember isn't sufficiently entertaining for half an hour, you'd be wrong.

That, of course, is down to the selection for the panel. It consists of Marcus Brigstocke, Josie Lawrence, Mark Watson and Kirsty Wark, a collection of Radio 4 heavyweights.

The subject they're all studiously boning up on for this episode is fire, with categories including ancient fire, recent fire (including 1666), and the science of fire (with the most important question, "why is fire hot?") There's also the important inter-round feature, "Amaze Dave", which comes with a suitably obnoxious Radio 1-styled jingle. In this, the pupils must bring along their most spectacular fact, which Tyler should not have heard.

I highly recommend listening to this while imagining them in an actual classroom. Tyler makes an excellent teacher, with snarky but informative lectures to each person when they're wrong, or at least incomplete, and a pleasingly superior tone. (It also has a remarkably deep dive into the quantum mechanics of covalent bonding, which nicely showed the research done and enjoyably flummoxed the panel.)

Around him are various school children. Lawrence is completely the swot, reciting word perfect answers from memory, with an impressively earnest nature (and easily my favourite). Watson is the quiet one. Occasional interruptions with relevant facts, but definitely overshadowed. Wark is probably the teacher's favourite, even if she has an utterly disgusting mime about a fireman's pole that I unfortunately can't fully enjoy on the radio. Brigstocke is the loud one. He tends to drop in with an interjection after more or less everyone, which sometimes gets a bit tiresome.

Almost certainly got enough legs for a series (dependent on guest mix obviously), being a hopefully lighter version of something like The 3rd Degree. It's funny enough in any regard. Now they just need to be a bit more explicit about how the points work. See if Ofsted can help them clear it up.

Score 4

Tagged: Radio Comedy Cast Panel Science/Technology