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TV review: Horizon: Do You See What I See?

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, Monday 8 August 2011

The reason Manchester United beat Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday has nothing to do with the emergence of Cleverley and Smalling, with Nani’s coolness, Ferguson’s cunning, or with Mancini’s team’s negativity and cluelessness. It is, as Horizon: Do You See What I See? (BBC2) shows, simply because United wear red.

In Olympic taekwondo, where contestants are randomly assigned red or blue to wear, there are significantly more red winners. Taekwondo referees have been shown to be more generous to red contestants (just like football referees at Old Trafford). Other experiments show that wearing red reduces stress levels, giving the wearer more confidence.

It’s not all bad news for blue. Blue lighting can have a positive effect in a restaurant. And it makes time go quicker. So if you’re doing a lengthy stretch in prison you might want to have a word with the governor, see if he’ll let you paint your cell in a nice azure. But if you’re single and don’t want to be, get some new scarlet pulling pants. And if you’re Gael Clichy, or Fernando Torres, you’re an idiot.

The red-blue thing is just a part of this fascinating programme. As well as looking at how different colours affect us, it examines what affects the way we see colours, whether we all see colours the same way, whether we even see them differently from day to day.

The conclusions are extraordinary: that although it’s simply about light falling on your eyes, the way we perceive colour depends on so many things – sex, age, mood. It’s all a big illusion really. It depends on culture and language too.

The language thing was the most extraordinary for me. A scientist travels to northern Namibia to visit the Himba tribe, who have many fewer words for colour and who classify them in completely different ways. He shows them a circle of squares, all green except one which is clearly blue to me and you (unless you’re one of my Himba readers). And they can’t pick it out, simply because in their language it’s the same colour (dumbu if you’re interested – I happen to speak a few words of Otjihimba, a dialect of the Herero language).

Imagine what it must be like playing snooker for the Himba. The green, being darker than the one in the experiment, is probably not dumbu butzuzou, as the blue and the black are (I think). The reds are serandu, but so is the brown, and possibly the pink as well. And both the white and the yellow are vapa. So they’re going to be incurring loads of penalties for cueing off with the yellow, and even if they are lucky and get the white, they’ll have no idea what to aim for, or how much it’s worth. And you’ve often wondered why there has never been a Himba world snooker champion? Oh, and City will win nothing this season obviously. Nor Chelsea. United will win the Milk Cup, Liverpool the FA Cup. The Premier and Champions’ Leagues? Arsène disproves the doubters, in style. Come on you reds.

 

 

Nicola Roberts: the Truth About Tanning, BBC Three, review.

The Telegraph: James Walton reviews the BBC Three documentary about the dangers of sunbeds from the Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts.

Now, a BBC Three documentary by one of Girls Aloud might not sound the likeliest source of some solid investigative journalism. None the less,Nicola Roberts: the Truth About Tanning, was not just good, but possibly even important.

Apparently, Roberts (the Scouse red-haired one) used to be obsessed with looking bronzed herself. Now, she’s embraced her outer paleness with the usual convert’s zeal. Her first stop last night was South Wales where she lectured tanning-addict Tom with a sternness that wouldn’t have shamed Ann Widdecombe.

But Roberts’s sights were soon set on wider things than a bloke from Cardiff. Since the advent of sunbeds, she told us, the number of cases of skin cancer in Britain has quadrupled. It’s also the fastest growing disease among young people – and Britain is one of the few Western countries with no legal age restrictions on sunbed use.

According to the World Health Organisation, “sunbeds are now as dangerous as cigarettes” – and in many ways the programme did resemble a smoking documentary from about 1962. There was the same ignorance from the users, the same talk of personal freedom from the industry and, above all, the same sense that this is only the beginning of a very long story indeed.

Despite the shots of Roberts walking purposefully along pavements, nobody will have confused her here with a Newsnight reporter, particularly when she was in full psychobabble flow. Even so, her mixture of outrage at the lack of regulations, sympathy for the victims and anxiety for the potential victims did ultimately make for a convincing and sobering piece of television: especially, I would imagine, for its target audience of teenage girls. As Tom wonderingly told us, it took “a ginger woman from Girls Aloud” to show him the dangers of excessive tanning – and after last night, I bet he wasn’t alone.

 

 

Telegraph TV pick: Horizon – Is Alcohol Worse than Ecstasy? (BBC2)

List-shows, needless to say, have been a TV staple for ages now. As far as I can remember, though, last night marked the first time there’s been one on Horizon (BBC2).

Is Alcohol Worse than Ecstasy? consisted of a run-down of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Drugs in Britain. The list was drawn up by a group of experts in the field, who’d apparently done thorough research – although, unlike people in maths exams, they weren’t encouraged here to show their working-out.

As a result, the narrator’s assertions often felt either a little bald or distinctly puzzling. (Tobacco was introduced as “Britain’s deadliest drug” – but still only came in at number nine.)

The programme made much of the fact that the drugs classifications in place today were drawn up in 1971, and so reflected the fashions and prejudices of the day.

Yet, especially in the absence of that working-out, the same thing sometimes seemed true of last night’s list as well. LSD, for example, was below cannabis (14 and 11 respectively) – and less surprisingly than the narrator appeared to think, the answer to the question of the title was a ringing “yes”.

Booze managed an impressive number five placing, while ecstasy limped in at 18. For the record, heroin beat cocaine to the top spot – partly because, as Harry Hill has pointed out, it’s so moreish.