The Weekend's TV reviewed: Wonders of Life, Sun BBC2
Wild Arabia, Fri BBC2

The on-screen labels that Wonders of Life employs give it an encyclopaedic authority

It may not come as news to female readers that men are wetter than women, but I’ll confess that it came as a bit of a surprise to me.

I learned this fact from Professor Brian Cox, recently nominated as successor by the incumbent Pope of Scientific Pantheism, David Attenborough, and thus not a man whose pronouncements are to be lightly questioned. Though strictly speaking he didn’t actually pronounce it at all – this detail appearing in one of those curiously satisfying on-screen labels that Wonders of Life employs to give its images a twist of encyclopaedic authority. The scene was a Mexican town and the footnotes ran as follows: adult female 55 per cent water, adult male 60 per cent water. Male supremacists hoping to give a positive spin to this odd anomaly may point out that the human brain is 77 per cent water. Feminists hoping to counter them may like to know that  a dog is 70 per cent water and a baby 85 per cent.

In the last of his series, Cox addressed himself to what makes the planet home, not just to organisms advanced enough to make five-part television programmes about the mysteries of life but to everything else as well, including the microbial descendants of our common ancestors among the Prokaryotes. And water was one of the most critical components. Extremophiles have carved out a kind of life without sunlight or oxygen – two of the other elements of homeliness that make the planet so congenial to us – but nothing, according to  Cox, had managed to do without water. And, as in preceding episodes, his explanation was a captivating combination of introductory-level chemistry and physics and reverence for the facts of the world. He may have dispensed with God as  an explanatory necessity in his cosmology, but the strain you can hear in the background is “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.

Apparently, the really clever trick that made the planet habitable for us is not easy to replicate.  As anyone even slightly versed in repudiating the arguments of  creationists should know, flight and eyesight – notional stumbling blocks to evolutionary theory – have actually evolved in a number of ways over the years. But life has to date only come up with one form of oxygenic photosynthesis, the process that means we actually have something to breathe. Back there, in the mists of time (I think water was a precondition), some Bacterial Eve put together two molecular machines that had previously been unconnected, and the greening  of the planet could really begin. Tellingly, Cox closed the series with a reading from Genesis by one of the Apollo 8 astronauts. I think by the end he felt his own creation  narrative had nothing to fear from a scriptural predecessor.

That life can get by with very little water was demonstrated by Wild Arabia on Friday night, a new series that supplies more evidence for the tenacity of the evolutionary process, which can establish outposts of vitality in the least hospitable surroundings. Attractions included the horned viper, which looks like the Genesis serpent personified, and something called the sandfish, a polished kind of lizard that can disappear into the sand as cleanly, and quickly, as Tom Daley entering a pool. I was also impressed by the external scent organ of the scorpion, a kind of broom affair that it sweeps over the sand to detect its prey.

As usual, the pictures are extraordinary but the prose is a bit more difficult to take, alternating as it does between bombast and misapplied cliché. Describing the escape strategies of  the jerboa the narrator said this: “He has one last trick up his sleeve... hairy feet!” Not really up his sleeve, surely, even if jerboas wore jackets? Just once it might be nice to see the “making of” sequence that now concludes many natural-history films feature someone sweating away at a word processor and trying to get the commentary to match the quality of the images.

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game