In the last Sticky Wicket, I ranted about the lack of a good image for biology in the media. So, what to do? Well, one option is to re-program Joe and Jane to appreciate that `biology' is good for you, that it will not harm your health, destroy the world or lead to world domination by some megalomaniac. We could start again with television programs that focus on`biology'. Since all of the existing TV stations are run by knuckleheads who wouldn't know a zebrafish from a proteasome, I suggest that we `biologists'band together to form our own TV station. We will call it BTv. Here are a few examples of programming ideas.
Telebabies do Microbiology. A participation series on infectious cycles, vaccines and antibiotics for the very young.
Coldroom 34. A breakthrough miniseries on the clandestine field of protein purification, featuring never-before-seen footage of the void volume being collected from a gel filtration column — this program contains strong language and partial nudity (sorry, it's the only way that we could make this exciting).
Cooking up an Experiment. Gourmet scientists describe how to make your favorite buffer, grow cells in a window-box and mix body-numbing cocktails of inhibitors.
Cooking up Data. Not to be confused with `Cooking up an Experiment',this series features law-enforcement officers who risk their lives to hunt down scientists who fabricate data, and the men and women of the judiciary who put the perpetrators behind bars.
The Weakest Scientist. A quiz show in which scientists answer questions for grant money, and then vote each other off the show until one is left with all the money (a `reality show').
The Nobels. A new soap opera that delves into the sexy world of the top scientists. Shot at great expense on location in a Cambridge housing estate, this series exposes their dreams, their loves and their fantasies.
Inner Space. A philosophical journey inside a cell. Find out what it is like to be an energy producer, a sewage works or work on an assembly line(OK, you want the key: mitochondrion, lysosome and ribosome,respectively).
The Lab at Lincolns Inn Fields. A daily series that follows the relationships, psychological breakdowns, alcoholism, successes and failures of Nigel, Gary, Brenda and Joslin as they work their way towards completing their PhDs.
Bug Bounty. A cowboy series featuring good guys searching out and destroying bad bugs for money.
I've Got Worms! No, not a medical docu-drama on parasites (although a `pilot' on “How to Get Excited about a Parasite Infection” is scheduled for the Christmas holidays) but a documentary on `model' systems used by biologists to examine complex developmental and physiological pathways. Other titles in the works are “No Flies on Me”,“Manipulating Mickey Mouse Mutants” and “How the Zebrafish Got its Stripes”.
Top of the Citations. Brought to you by the Journal of Cell Science. A weekly round-up of the top publications performed live by your favorite scientists and introduced by Fiona `Dirty Dancing' Watt.
The Graduate Student. A sensitive melodrama about lost innocence,involving adolescents who are seduced by older, experienced professionals to start a career in science.
The World Wrestling Federation proudly presents `Controversies in Biology'. Featuring tag-team wrestling by scientists with opposing views on a topic (the first topic will be the fate of the Golgi during mitosis, as advertised recently in Nature — Geeeet Ready Toooooo..... Fragment!).
Attack of the Very Friendly, Small and Tasty Cherry Tomatoes.Paid commercial programming from purveyors of GM foods.
Restaurants and Hotels of the World. An occasional series in which scientists criss-crossing the world attending meetings report on the food and accommodation.
Who Wants to be a Grantee? A quiz show in which scientists present their work and answer questions in front of a panel of reviewers, who then discuss impossible tasks that the contestant must accomplish in order to receive a grant.
Who Wants to Publish a Paper? A similar format to `Who Wants to be a Grantee?'.
Interdisciplinary Cricket Matches. Featuring teams of scientists working on topics for a ridiculously long time without coming to any firm conclusion (I know, this would seem to decrease excitement in biology, but a remarkable number of people find this sort of thing riveting).
So, please, when contacted for participation in one of these programs, or when producers are in your area looking for contestants, try out for a part. It will help Joe and Jane understand and appreciate `biology'. And, subscribe to BTv!