BBC Bristol for BBC2, 17 to 27 January 2005 (8 episodes)
Professional and amateur engineers compete in engineering challenges, and score points not only for their machines' performance but also for their originality.
The challenges in the first (and only) series were:
- Amphibious racers
- Beach digging machines
- Penalty Shoot-out machines
- Triple Jumping machines
Broadcast in the early evening, Geronimo! was very much aimed at a family audience. (Indeed, not only was this show heavily trailed within and around CBBC, but CBBC was also heavily promoted before and after Geronimo!, in trailers prominently featuring one Fearne Cotton). So the tone was very jolly and not too overbearingly "educational" - which worked well enough. The open entrance policy (basically, all you had to do was turn up on the day before filming and you were in) meant that we got to see various different approaches to each challenge. There was also a good range of contestants, from school teams to professional engineers.
"Team Geronimo" - Colonel Dick and his assistant Diarmuid Byron-O'Connor - also took part in each challenge, and film of their preparations (in what Fearne calls their "big posh shed") provided an insight into the engineering problems involved in each challenge. Mostly, though, it was a case of learning through seeing what goes wrong, and it mostly provided vindication of the KISS principle: "Keep It Simple, Stupid". It's always good to see professional engineers with complex machines utterly trounced by schoolkids with the most basic designs, and this show provided plenty of that.
There was plenty to dislike about it - too much time spent on recaps, and we can see how Colonel Dick's "just a big kid" antics might grate (though we quite enjoyed them) - but it never pretended to be much more than a bit of mildly educational fun, and on its own terms it was pretty much successful.
The winners' trophy was called the Silver Moustache and consisted of a model of Lt.Col. Strawbridge's own bushy 'tache mounted on a spring. To viewers of a particular mindset, it might have been thought suggestive of certain other things...
The most spectacular demonstration of the KISS principle came in the triple-jumping challenge. Most teams entered complex machines with multiple tension springs that broke, failed to release, or simply underperformed. Not Shaun The Prawn though, which was simply a bottle rocket launched at a 45 degree angle - one of the simplest of all machines and the sort of thing that every 10-year-old can make (or at least, they could in our day). The team's chief spokeswoman had a nice line in deadpan humour too, though we never did figure out just why it was called Shaun The Prawn.
Geronimo! rules (pdf)
Weaver's Week 6 February 2005 - review.