Highlights from the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Jan. 27, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

The Brain: the eternal mystery of natural creation, the great frontier of Western medicine, the perfect subject for The Charlie Rose Show.

Why’s that?  Because the brain’s inherent mystery brings out the child in Charlie.  I maintain that Charlie’s attitude toward’s science in general is about the same as a child’s towards magic – he believes in it fervently, in spite of not understanding its underpinnings.  He’s endlessly entertained by it.  The Brain Series is like Charlie putting on his own 1st – 12th birthday parties and engaging the entertainment at his own expense.  Isn’t he just precious?

The big challenge of the Brain Series for Charlie and his staff has no doubt been dealing with the tremendous volume it represents.  Twelve episodes, usually a panel of four or more guests, each episode an hour long.  It’s obvious from the editing in the original episodes (and yes, I did watch them all as they hit the airwaves) that the conversations likely went on for at least twice the broadcast time.

So how to choose the “Best Of”?  How to take 12+ hours of material and reduce it to 60 minutes that somehow work as a narrative and present the most interesting insights offered on the series?

I won’t pretend to know whether or not this was the best possible version of the Brain Series Redux, but it was sure as hell good TV.  Right up there with the best clip shows of all time.  It was also one of the most visually stimulating episodes in Charlie Rose history.  There were robots,

sea creatures that eat their own brains,

and even Sumo-wrestling houseflies.

Charlie chose as the centerpiece of this episode the self-described psychotic episodes of two women: one a manic-depressive, the other a hallucinogenic schizophrenic.  Their accounts are as riveting as the best in Freud.

Overall, the staff at the CRS could have made a hundred possible great episodes out of the Brain Series, and this was certainly one of them.  Snappily paced, wide ranging, thought-provoking.  But what did we expect?

What we (or at least I) didn’t expect was that Charlie would announce Year 2 of the Brain Series to start this spring!  Your editors are frothing at the proverbial mouth with excitement.

Overall score: 95 points

Sartorial analysis

This being a clip show, we will not endeavor to describe Charlie’s many costumes throughout the 12-part series.  We do offer an analysis of the outfit he chose for the purposes of “hosting” the event:

Charlie’s suit: His go-to plain purple suit, double-breasted (as always, perfectly altered from the Ralph Lauren collection)
Charlie’s tie: bluish, horizontal white cross-stitching.
Charlie’s shirt: Plain, crisp white; button cuffs, very definitely unbuttoned.

Let us not neglect to note the always nattily dressed Eric Kandel, Charlie’s co-host in this series:

and Charlie’s first-ever corporately sponsored guest, Oliver Sacks:

(which, actually, if you watch that episode, is explained.)

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2 Responses to Highlights from the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Jan. 27, 2011

  1. labureauchief says:

    perfection: “I maintain that Charlie’s attitude toward’s science in general is about the same as a child’s towards magic…”

    a question: in which steam room in which downtown athletic club do we think Charlie first met Eric? i’ve always been fascinated by their friendship. but where do we think they hang?

    • backatthistable says:

      If science is magic for Charlie, I think Eric Kandel is his Merlin. I doubt Charlie really thinks of him as a peer – he probably thinks of him as a sage. I get that constantly from their “co-hosting” of the Brain series. I bet if you asked Charlie where they met, he would just say, “I don’t know! He just… appeared one day…”

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