Best known as a presenter on Stargazing Live, and Britain's favourite astronomer (sorry, Patrick Moore), Mark Thompson now widens his scientific gaze to chemistry and physics in this warm, involving educational children's show.
Standing before a worktop of eclectic yet everyday paraphernalia, where cornmeal, jelly babies and balloons sit alongside beakers, bunsen burners and helium tanks, Thompson offers a series of lessons in basic science with invariably amusing results. His homespun experiments and friendly, plain-speaking demeanor may remind parents and other visiting adults of the kind of thing they once watched on How 2; if so, they should remember their own sense of childhood fascination if some parts of the show feel a little familiar or underwhelming—who hasn't seen a non-Newtonian fluid dance?—and bear in mind that kids are Thompson's intended audience.
That said, the spectacles offered by the Spectacular Science Show are rarely dull: one should never be too blasé about fireballs. Yet what wins the goodwill of young and old alike is Thompson's facility with banter, keeping his explanations comprehensible to all, maintaining a constant sense of fun, and keeping things going when his occasionally tempermental equipment fails to behave as expected.
Educational entertainment is often a balancing act, and usually fails in at least one of its dual aims. Thompson doesn't reinvent the concept by any means, and his show leans more towards flash and bang than explaining what made them do so. But faced with children's delight, that matters little.