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Dr. Jennifer Gardy (CBC)
Dr. Jennifer Gardy (CBC)

John Doyle: Television

Could Jennifer Gardy be the next David Suzuki? Add to ...

“For mosquitoes, body odour is obviously the smell of choice.”

It has come to this. I know hardly anybody is thinking about mosquitoes right now. But they feature in a nifty bit of entertainment tonight that is an exercise in pop science. Do mosquitoes prefer the body odour of ladies or gents? That sort of thing.

Previous columns by John Doyle

Such material is neither easily done nor an easy sell to viewers at a time when it seems a lot of television and about 70 per cent of what’s on the Internet is telling you pop-science factoids to make you feel knowledgeable and smart. Hence the plethora of people at social gatherings who claim to know that green tea will cure every ailment known to the human race. Or maybe it’s a diet of rice pudding and Gatorade. Or something similar. But I digress.

There’s so much pop-science info around that, really, only a certain kind of host can make it all seem interesting and plausible. Such a person hosts tonight’s pop-science thing. Pay attention to her. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next TV science-nerd star, one Jennifer Gardy.

The Nature of Things: Myth or Science (CBC, 8 p.m.) is hosted by the phenomenally perky Gardy, a B.C. molecular biologist who gives her absolute all to explore whether some popular myths are science fact or science fiction, such as: drinking alcohol on a cold day warms you up; eating grilled meat can increase your risk of cancer; mosquitoes prefer ladies. Things that your mother told you, or that were asserted breezily in 400 words on a news site on your computer, and you read before checking your e-mail.

So then – it’s true that a rosemary marinade is a good idea if you’re grilling meat. Red wine is definitely good for you. Fine and dandy. But, do you actually lose most of your body heat through your head? And is it true that if you eat slowly it will help you lose weight? For answers to those questions, you’ll have to watch.

And while you watch, you will note that at one point Gardy partially disrobes, gets drunk and giggles. At another point she is in a bikini and immersed in freezing water. Then she’s standing around in her bikini shivering. To note this is not to be sexist at all. Everything I’ve described is done in the name of science. Science, I tell you.

“Hey, science chick” is how Gardy is addressed at one point on her journey to bust some myths about science and medicine. The speaker is competitive food eater Dave (Coondog) O’Karma, and while it might seem disrespectful, it’s apt. And Gardy responds with a laugh.

Gardy, who leads the Genome Research Laboratory at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, has done some TV before. She is one of those figures who fit the perceived television model for science host – chipper, pithy and comely. (There’s a touch of Zooey Deschanel of New Girl about Gardy, to be honest.) She is one very media-friendly scientist.

A few weeks ago, her workout routine was featured in this newspaper. And a couple of years ago, she wrote the Nerd Girl blog for the Globe’s globecampus.com. In the blog, she once wrote, memorably, “I have finally reached the pinnacle of Canadian science communication – I have summited Mount Suzuki and have a one-off gig hosting The Nature of Things.”

She is back, obviously. The upshot is, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this molecular biologist on TV. The new Suzuki, perhaps. Mind you, I have no idea where she stands on renewable energy. And yet, on the other hand, we’ve never seen David Suzuki get all giggly-tipsy in the name of science, have we? Or did I miss that?

Never mind. Watch this Nature of Things and you’ll understand everything. The tastes of mosquitoes. The assertion that we’ll be seeing more of the host. Everything.

* * * * *

Department of updates and clarifications In answer to your questions, I can report that Sun News Network pundit Ezra Levant’s glasses were indeed returned to him by the scamp who took them at the Occupy Toronto site at 4 a.m. The glasses were missing for only a very short time. I should have made that clear. Also, in Tuesday’s column, I gave the impression that this season of This Hour Has 22 Minutes was shortened. It isn’t. It has 22 episodes. I was thinking of last year when only 13 episodes ran.

Check local listings.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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