Psychologist Nigel Latta is on a quest to find out ‘how stuff happens,’ writes Alex Casey.

Our in-house national psychologist Nigel Latta has trod the un-PC boards in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Parenting, and graffitied all over a window pane in Beyond the Darklands. He's also written books, been to Antarctica, and looked at what sugar is doing to our country. He's almost done it all - apart from controlled explosions.

In TV One's new series, Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up, Latta wants to "figure out what makes the world tick". Despite his knowledge of the explosive world of parenting, he's got a lot of unanswered questions about "how stuff happens". To figure it all out he's going to blow stuff up. His own ad plays as the pre-roll to episode one on TVNZ OnDemand. It's the collapse of everything. He's even seemingly trying to blow up the internet.

The first episode is all about lightning. In his pseudo-mad-scientist lab, Latta explains the science. And when I say science, I mean rubbing a cat with amber and running a current through a child volunteer while they attract bits of gold leaf. Talk about un-PC! He says young children can conduct electricity more easily somehow, presumably through a youthful magic.

Read more: An interview with Nigel Latta


The demonstrations work as they are fronted solely by Nige, rather than a dowdy old "expert". Like the audience, he is seemingly learning as he goes and relishing the revelations. The experiments are simple enough to understand, and a refreshing change to the aural assault of the moustachioed Mythbusters. The only disconcerting part of Latta's laboratory is if you look at the background large beakers of blood appear to decorate the shelves.

I was particularly fond of another segment that I hope to see continued, wherein Latta seems to do Punk'd-style experiments on his celebrity friends. Chef Michael Van de Elzen was forced to make a broccoli tart while an anklet administered small electric shocks to his system. Needless to say, the tart didn't look great by the time it was plated up. I'm going to give the broccoli tart a two for presentation. It was a playful and painful use of science in action, the kind of thing Steve O of Jackass fame has done. I am looking forward to next week when Nige will probably make chef Simon Gault drink vinegar and baking soda.

The episode really came into its own as they "got to the guts" of the lightning investigation, beginning voltage tests on various objects to replicate being struck by lightning. The immense electric surges caused the crew's cameras to turn off, and we got a look behind the curtain as the team searched for solutions. It's a huge production problem, but ended up being the perfect scientific demonstration.

Almost prophetically, the same protective suit that successfully shielded the camera from the charge was soon worn by Nigel in his magnificent closing stunt. Planning to receive more than 100,000 volts of lightning straight to the bod, he cautiously suited up. It's impressive, it's dangerous, it's just a shame the suit made him look like an old lady about to walk her dog in the rain. But this is a science show, not a fashion show.

The final stunt was pretty spectacular, with Latta's electrified finger harnessing a killer lightning bolt like some crazed masochistic E.T. After the charge was turned off, Nigel says he felt an immense buzzing, but was now left in a "vacuum of pleasant relaxedness". Which is sort of how I felt. The science of the show had not overpowered, but subtly charged on in, zapping me occasionally just like little bits of educational broccoli hidden in a deliciously entertaining tart.

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