"None of the Above" and "The Numbers Game" (
"None of the Above" is a demonstration show, mostly about chemistry and physics, in which ordinary citizens out in the world are asked to suggest or choose from a number of things that might or might not happen if a certain thing was done to a certain other thing. That is just a framework, of course, like making the questions the answers in "Jeopardy." The results are often counterintuitive. (Spoilers ahead). What would happen if a person sat on a Tesla coil in a suit of armor. (Nothing.) What happens to a pickle when you run electricity into it. (It lights up.) What happens to ice when you mix in cotton balls. (It becomes uncrackable.) What happens to marshmallows in a vacuum? (They get super puffy.) What happens when you mix melted ice cream with self-rising flour and pop it in the microwave? (You get bread.) How do you get an olive into a wine glass without touching it? (Centrifugal force is your friend in this bar trick, performed in a bar. Shaw also goes to Compton in his Ford Ranchero, to Bludso's BBQ, to demonstrate what happens when you drop a frozen turkey into a huge vat of hot peanut oil. You might get that one right.)
The zippy "The Numbers Game" takes statistical probabilities regarding human behavior and presents them in a way that suggests that knowledge of how a certain sort of person is likely to act in a given circumstance can transform your own behavior -- to help you act like a hero, or to be less of a sucker. Such transference seems tenuous to me, but, again, this is really just a way to turn science into television -- and that, as Martha would say, is a good thing. The facts are interesting without the folderol -- there is a hidden-camera, prankish component to the show -- but the folderol makes the facts concrete. It's interesting to know that brain chemistry explains things con artists know from practice, and amusing, and alarming, to watch host Porway gather $125 in an hour by asking strangers for money for gas in a manner that surreptitiously creates trust. We learn too from a professional mentalist that a mind reader's best friend is a head already full of facts -- about geography and population distribution, regional accents or the generational likelihood of a first name beginning with a given letter. What looks supernatural, we learn, is "observation and statistics, pure math and science."
"Doll & Em" (HBO). British actresses and lifelong friends
The tone is intimate, offhand, improvisational; the style is hand-held, fly-on-the-wall documentary without the pretense of being a documentary. (Jacobs comes out of the world of independent film.) It is not heavily plotted and is never played for laughs; its absurdities are, at most, only slight magnifications of those Hollywood lives daily, if a long literature of the industry is anything to go by. It's as complicated a duet, in its way, as that of