Brainiac: Science Abuse

Brainiac: Science Abuse
Brainiac: Science Abuse
Brainiac Science Abuse logo.svg
Genre Science/Comedy
Presented by Richard Hammond
(series 1–4)
Vic Reeves
(series 5–6)
Thaila Zucchi (series 6)
Charlotte Hudson
(series 2–5)
Jon Tickle
(series 1–6)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 6
No. of episodes 60
Running time 46 minutes
Production company(s) London Weekend Television
Granada Television
Original channel Sky1
First shown in United Kingdom
Original run 13 November 2003 (2003-11-13) – 30 March 2008 (2008-03-30)
Related shows Brainiac: History Abuse
Brainiac's Test Tube Baby
External links

Brainiac: Science Abuse (often shortened to simply Brainiac) is a British entertainment TV show with a science motif. Numerous experiments are carried out in each show, often to verify whether common conceptions are true (such as whether it is possible to run over a pool of custard) or simply to create impressive explosions. The show centres on the three core branches of science for the key stages in British education: chemistry, physics and to a lesser extent, biology. The experimenters on the show are referred to as "Brainiacs", and each episode usually finishes with the destruction of a caravan.

The show is produced by ITV umbrella studios Granada Productions (collaboration between London Weekend Television and Granada Television in Manchester) and is broadcast in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on Sky Digital.

The original presenters were Richard Hammond and Jon Tickle, then joined in the second series by Charlotte Hudson. Hammond left after the fourth, and was replaced by Vic Reeves and Hudson left after the fifth, and was replaced by Thaila Zucchi. The show's fifth series first aired on 8 May 2007 and the sixth, on 13 January 2008.

In July 2008, after the sixth series had finished, Sky announced they had cancelled the show due to the sixth series' low ratings.[1]


Show ratings

The programme was a huge ratings success for Sky and became one of the channel's flagship programmes. Ratings fell and it was eventually cancelled due to the poor demographics. A sister programme, Brainiac: History Abuse, presented by Charlotte Hudson, began airing on Sky1 on 1 June 2005, and a live version, Brainiac's Test Tube Baby, was broadcast in 2006 alongside the fourth series.

International broadcasts

Brainiac: Science Abuse has been broadcast in a number of channels outside the UK.

In the U.S., it first began airing on G4 on 29 August 2005 as part of the Midnight Spank programming block; and is also shown on VIVA in Germany, JIMtv in Belgium, Veronica in the Netherlands, Skai TV in Greece, Channel 8 in Israel, True Visions in Thailand, Network Ten and The Comedy Channel in Australia, TV2 in New Zealand, Cuatro in Spain (only parts of it because they did their own Brainiac programme), Nelonen in Finland, in Singapore on MediaCorp TV's okto and in the Philippines on Jack TV. It has also been broadcast on Discovery Channel or one of its sister channels (such as The Science Channel) in a number of other countries. Furthermore, MBC Action started airing it on 13 October 2008 and in the Middle East.


Brainiac: Science Abuse plays music in every episode, including hits by Britney Spears, C & C Music Factory, and Elton John. Some are themes of various recurring segments such as "There's No One Quite like Grandma" sung by the St Winifred's School Choir for the Granny Brainiac segments in Series 3. The "I Like Hard Things" segment normally features heavy rock music such as Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit. The segment "I Can Do Science, Me" uses the track "I Am A Scientist" by the Dandy Warhols.

The Title music and many of the incidental tracks used in the show were composed by Grant Buckerfield.[2]

Much of the non-original music was changed for the DVD releases for copyright reasons.


Brainiac recording on location

First series (2003)

The first series of Brainiac: Science Abuse aired in 2003 and featured a wide variety of experiments including testing to see whether a mobile phone would ignite petrol vapours, walking on custard and testing the effects of electric shocks on various Brainiacs.

Second series (2004)

The second series premiered on Sky1 in 2004 and G4 on 29 August 2005. It saw the start of "Brainiac Snooker", in which World Snooker professional Quinten Hann would pot the last six balls on a table into pockets connected to fuses which, upon potting a ball causing a caravan rigged with a different explosive to explode.

The second series also introduced Charlotte Hudson as a third, but minor, host, and saw the introduction of what then became long term character "Professor Myang-Li", played by Rachel Grant.

Third series (2005)

The third series premiered on Sky1 on 25 August 2005 and on G4 in Spring 2006. It featured Brainiac Golf (similar to Brainiac Snooker, but exploding caravans filled with different substances that exploded with coloured flames depending on the chemicals used), Lad v. Lass, Thermite, "Does being electrocuted affect your ability at work?" (human statue, flair bartending, darts player), "Things the instruction manuals don't warn you about", 47 Second Science, Diana Ross and her Chain Reaction, and testing which things break and which things bounce after a ten foot drop.

Dr. John P. Kilcoyne, Associate Dean of the University of Sunderland had a regular slot where he mixed various chemicals to see whether they "fizz" or "bang".

Fourth series (2006)

The fourth series premiered on Sky1 on 16 July 2006, and on G4 in Spring of 2007. It introduced Brainiac Darts, during which Bobby George threw a perfect set, always finishing on the Double Top which triggered the explosion of a caravan, and a new "I Can Do Science Me" which is set around auditions. There is also a feature called "Things What My Body Does", in which a member of the public is filmed doing something extraordinary with their bodies. It also featured "Movie Stars Destroying Cars" and Dr. John P. Kilcoyne with "Glow or Blow".

It also introduced a new feature called "Brainiac for a Day", where contestants could bring an item of their choice to blow up. It was set out as a game show with the hosts Dolly Girl (Lisa Marie Bourke) (previously "Jane" in the "Lad v. Lass" segment) and Dolly Boy (Stefan D'Bart).

Fifth series (2007)

It premiered on 8 May 2007 on Sky1 and was simulcast in HD on Sky1 HD. The series retained "Brainiac For A Day", "Things What My Body Does", and contains new segments like "Brainiac V Beast", Dr Kilcoyne with "Fizzle or Flash" and Prof. Myang Li (Rachel Grant) with steel balls, attempting to "shatter or shunt" various objects. In addition, Vic Reeves appeared as the Russian scientist Uri Abusikov,along with his object of affection his assistant the hideously ugly Ursula, attempting to destroy things with liquid nitrogen.

In this series, Vic Reeves took over as host from Richard Hammond, who had quit the show. Hammond's growing commitments to Top Gear and his contract with the BBC meant that he was finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil his role as presenter of Brainiac. Hammond was also reportedly losing interest in doing Brainiac. Vic Reeves was brought in as replacement host shortly after the end of the fourth series and before Richard Hammond's near fatal crash. The original production team left the programme at the same time as Hammond.

With Vic now presenting, he introduced the "alternative humour" brand that Vic was famous for in the 1990s with his comedy partner, Bob Mortimer.

Sixth series (2008)

Premiering on 13 January 2008 on Sky1, this series saw the return of Vic Reeves as host and Jon Tickle as co-host. Thaila Zucchi replaced Hudson as the third co-host and made her debut on the series in two items: "How Hard is Your Thing?" in which she tests the hardness of different objects using thermite and a tonne of bricks dropped from a crane, and "Shocking Acts" in which she finds out whether variety acts can still perform while receiving electric shocks. Other new segments included "Gas Bang Wallop" featuring a character called Barry Bernard who destroys things with gas, "Chemistry Deathmatch" in which regular characters Dr Bunhead and Professor John Kilcoyne go head-to-head to produce the best experiments, "Custard Dreams" which follows the adventures of a Brainiac who discovers he can walk on custard, and "Stars in Their Caravans" which sees a variety of UK celebrities trapped in caravans, in a mock game show which results in large explosions

  • Gail Porter
  • Frank Bruno
  • Paul Daniels
  • Debbie McGee
  • Jayne Middlemiss
  • Wozza Thompson (Antony Worall Thompson)
  • Tony Blackburn
  • WAGs
  • Danielle Lloyd
  • Abi Titmuss
  • Keely Hazell
  • Yuri Abusikov, who changed his chemical from liquid nitrogen to liquid oxygen, but otherwise remained the same

Brainiac Live!

Brainiac Live! is the name of the live stage tour of Brainiac, touring nationally from March 2008. The official description of the show is "Brainiac Joe escapes from Brainiac HQ and with your help delves fearlessly into the mysteries of science. It's a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. So book your tickets now and do all of those things on stage that you're too scared to do at home!"[3]

Since 2010, Brainiac Live has also been touring as a show around the UK, visiting holiday camps, such as Butlins, has performed in the UAE and has been a headlining show for the UK's Big Bang Event


The presenters perform unusual experiments or demonstration procedures "so you don't have to". The destruction of caravans is a recurring theme in many of the episodes. These experiments are often non-scientific and are undertaken in the interests of entertainment (many involving large explosions) rather than any science. The show does however do a reasonable job of demonstrating some simple concepts of experimental design.

  • Liquid Nitrogen/Liquid Oxygen Time: Vic Reeves does an impression of a soviet scientist named Uri Abusikov, along with his wife Ursula—who is seven feet tall and covered in hair—inserting an object into liquid nitrogen or oxygen to see what happens to it. The character is made as a remarkably similar look-alike to the former leader of USSR Leonid Brezhnev.
  • Attempting to destroy a black box/Safe-cracking, a flight data recorder or safe is subjected to various abuses attempting to destroy it, such as having a group of American Civil War re-enactors open fire with rifles and cannons, dunking it in a vat of acid, and spraying it with napalm and finally succumbing to a rubbish tip compacter used to crush cars.
  • Pub Science – performing experiments in a pub with ordinary items. Invariably this results in the experimenter (Dr Bunhead) being thrown out by security staff and subsequently banned.
  • At Home with Dr Bunhead – household mayhem usually involving some explosive chemical reaction.
  • You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll – a boombox is subjected to various forms of violence (such as having a caravan dropped on it, smashed up with various sports bats, shooting it with a dual-pellet shotgun, thrown with a hammer thrower and being burned with a flamethrower) until it ceases to play a tape of the Twisted Sister song of the same name. Not a single note of You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll was ever actually played in versions outside of the UK, and only the vocal hook of "You can't stop rock 'n' roll!" is repeated in the in-UK editions of the episode. The tape never survives.
  • Dear Jon: A segment in which members of the public write to Jon Tickle about questions they want answered. e.g. Is dog food healthier than fast food?
  • Things, but really slowly: A segment in which simple things are displayed in super slow-motion such as the popping of a water balloon and the ignition of a disposable lighter.
  • How Hard is your thing: A segment in which Thaila Zucchi tests the hardness of various objects. She uses three different methods to test the hardness of each; Impact(Ton of Bricks), Abrasion(Angle Grinder) and Heat Resistance(Thermite)
  • Celebs in their Caravans: Several celebrities lie in their caravans while a Brainiac spins a wheel and then puts it on the one he would like; then the chosen celebs would answer a science question, if it was right, they would light a long fuse, giving the celebrities a chance to rescue a precious belonging inside, if the answer was wrong, the short fuse was lit and the caravan and possession would be annihilated. The Brainiacs always fix the possession to the wall though and so the caravan and possession explodes anyway
  • Chemistry Death match: Dr Bunhead and Prof. Kilcoyne square off in various contests to see who can create the best type of chemical reaction
  • Cooking with Microwaves: Brainiacs cook up a recipe for disaster by placing miscellaneous items (especially flammable ones) into microwaves, which then explode.
  • Brainiac for a day – a usual person blowing up an object in a randomly selected way.
  • Victorian Brainiac.
  • Movie Stars Destroying Cars.
  • Appliance Abuse.
  • Striping Celebs On The Work Bench
  • Things you can run through – Involves a Brainiac running at full speed against a frame containing materials varying every week, to see if he can break through or if he'll bounce off.
  • Things what my body does – A video of someone doing something extraordinary with their body.
  • Stuff NASA never tried – Vic Reeves shows the efficiency (or not) of the usage of rockets in every task of life.
  • I Can Do Science, Me – Charlotte Hudson invites a common person who sent a letter to answer their burning questions.
  • Things That People Do For Money.
  • Dr. Bunhead on the Pull – The science's biggest loser goes out to a pub, on the hope that his science can get him a girlfriend.
  • 101 Uses for a Wee (urine).
  • Undercover Brainiac.
  • What Weird Things People Do To Attract The Other Sex
  • Things Jon Tickle's body can/can't do.
  • "Tickle's Teasers", supposedly unanswerable questions e.g. Can you cry underwater?
  • Things you can't do while being electrocuted.
  • Things you can do with Thermite.
  • 47 second science: Tackling life's big questions in bite sized chunks
  • Granny Brainiac: Home spun cures from an old woman that Brainiac calls "the nation's favourite old dear".
  • Celebs on Helium – celebrities are invited to take a balloon of helium and say "Hi, I'm [whoever] and you're watching Brainiac!"
  • Custard Dreams:Walking across (and standing in) a swimming-pool full of custard to demonstrate the properties of a non-Newtonian fluid.
  • Comparing the effects of what would happen (advantages and disadvantages) in certain situations involving two sorts of people, including:
    • Fat v Thin (series 1)
    • Tall v Short (series 2)
    • Lad v Lass (series 3)
    • Brainiac v Beast (series 5-6)
    • Brainiac v Toddler (series 5)
    • Tired v Wired (series 1)
    • Ugly V Beauty (series 4)
    • Left Hander V Right Hander (series 4)
    • Brainiac V Chemicals (series 5)
    • Starving V Stuffed (series 5)
  • Ad Break Buffers
    • Will it break or will it bounce? Dropping things from a height and seeing if they will break or bounce.
    • What's this? A sample from an object has been magnified 25–450 times under a microscope and you have to guess what the object is.
    • Will it Fizz or will it Bang
    • Will it Glow or will it Blow
    • Will it Shunt or will it Shatter
    • Will it Fizzle or will it Flash
    • Will it Float or will it Sink (fruit)
    • Will it Float or will it Flush
  • A website created by Barry Bernard (played by Reeves) a middle-aged man who lives in a caravan with the cameraman Clive and his t-shirt on the back says "". The website shows videos created by Bernard which shows random stuff (mostly Clive's relative's) exploded by a big balloon.

Forged results

At least one faked result has surfaced (the alkali metal experiments).[4]

One experiment conducted by Brainiac aimed to illustrate periodic trends in the alkali metal series. It showed the violent reactions of metallic sodium and potassium with water, in which the hydrogen produced subsequent explosions, and intended to demonstrate the even greater reactivity of rubidium and caesium by dropping them into a water-filled bathtub. However, the reaction was not particularly spectacular, and the crew substituted explosives for the alkali metals. This is clearly visible in the footage, in which an "explosives" sign can be seen on the premises, and an exploding cloud of hydrogen gas, which one would expect in an alkali metal reaction with water, was not visible.[5]

The Brainiac staff have admitted that the explosions had been faked.[4][6] According to Tom Pringle, Brainiac's "Dr Bunhead", very little occurred in the real reaction of caesium and water, as the large volume of water over it drowned out the thermal shock wave that should have shattered the bathtub. The crew decided to set up a bomb in the tub and use that footage to generate the explosion.[4]

Similar experiments with caesium or rubidium have been repeated; these include Popular Science columnist Theodore Gray's experiments,[7] the "Viewer Special Threequel" episode of MythBusters, and an attempt made as part of the Periodic Table of Videos series created by several faculty members at the University of Nottingham.[8] In no case were the rubidium and caesium reactions nearly as violent or explosive as depicted on Brainiac.

However, a much earlier and more successful attempt was shown on British TV in the 1970s as part of the Open University programmes. Here, rubidium splatters around as soon as it hits the water's surface (with some parts sinking and creating more violent bangs). Caesium, on the other hand, does create an explosion and destroys the apparatus, mainly due to the fact that the metal sinks well into the water and creates a large "cone" of hydrogen gas before it ignites and explodes. This video is available online at The Open University.[9]

DVD releases

Year Title
2003 Brainiac Science Abuse – Complete Series 1
2005 Brainiac – The Best Of Series 1
Australian Releases
Season Date Released # Of Episodes # Of Discs Special Features
Series 1 + 2[10] 10 February 2010 191 4 None
Series 3 + 4[11] 12 May 2010 18 4 None
Series 5 + 6[12] 11 August 2010 22 4 None

1 The Christmas special from series 2 is not included in the complete Series 1 + 2 box set due to legal reasons.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (28 July 2008). "Sky Calls Time On Brainiac". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2009 
  2. ^, J. Grant Buckerfield's website
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Goldacre, Ben (15 July 2006). "Sky's limit for big bangs". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "Alkali Metals". Brainiac: Science Abuse. 2 September 2004. No. 1, season 2. On Google Video.
  6. ^ Goldacre, Ben (22 July 2006). "Smile while you're faking it". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Gray, Theodore. "Alkali Metal Bangs" and videos. Accessed 23 November 2008.
  8. ^ Caesium. The Periodic Table of Videos.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links

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