“Your Inner Fish”– TV version– has begun

by Greg Mayer

Jerry noted in February that friend-of-the-site Neil Shubin will be presenting a three-part series on PBS this month based on his bestselling Your Inner Fish. The series began this past Wednesday; I was unable to see the whole episode (because at the same time I was writing an exam I had to give the next morning!), but it seems to have gotten off to a good start, and I saw appearances in one or more of the clips not only by Neil, but by my friends and colleagues Steve Gatesy, Ted Daeschler, and the late Farish Jenkins (all of whom were involved in the discovery of Tiktaalik).

Neil Shbin holding a cast of Tiktaalik.

Neil Shubin holding a cast of Tiktaalik.

The program has a well done website, where you can watch full episodes, as well as many other videos, and find other great resources. There is a parallel website hosted by Biointeractive.org, an arm of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also has many resources. The two sites seem to be only partially overlapping, so it’s worth visiting both.

The second episode will be aired in most areas next Wednesday, April 16, and the third episode the week after (April 23), but show times and dates may vary locally. There are also several re-broadcasts, and episodes become available on the website after broadcast. A DVD version will be released later this spring.


  1. gbjames
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    And an excellent series it is, too!

    The Creationists are taking a beating on TV these days. I love it.

  2. Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I watched the first episode last night. I thought it was very well done. I enjoy seeing the places that Shubin talked about in the book.

    • Achrachno
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes! I totally agree. Anyone who’s not seen it should run to do so.

      • potaman
        Posted April 16, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        Started with the second episode today. Spectacular!

        • Posted April 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

          Try to catch the first. I thought ep 2 was pretty wonderful, but didn’t have quite the astonishing energy level of ep 1.

  3. bric
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I get a 403:Forbidden for the program website, which is a bit alarming

    • bric
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Going back to the PBS website and starting there it turns out to be a region restriction; hopefully it will be shown in the UK at some point. The HHMI link works fine

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        Yeah the US restriction is a bummer. My dad forgot to record it so he is hoping for replays since he can’t watch on the site. I have my recorded episode ready for watching this weekend.

    • Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Try downloading TunnelBear, it offers a selection of countries that you can kid Big Brother you are from. I don’t think this is illegal, or so they tell me. You can get a whole lot of other stuff from the BBC on their iPlayer. Totally invaluable here in South Africa!

  4. Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s as good as Cosmos. Perhaps I’m terrestrially biased.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      IMO it is better than Cosmos. It isn’t filled with as much over-the-top special effect gewgogery. I like Cosmos plenty, but your inner fish feels more adult. And it shows real human corpse body parts, which is rare on TV.

      • Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        I’d agree — it’s even better. I thought episode #1 (obviously I don’t know about the others) was the best science TV show I’d seen in years.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        We sometimes eat dinner while watching. We were watching episode 1 and eating when he started showing the flayed cadaver hand! Required some quick mental adjustment.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

          Weren’t eating pork knuckles, were you?

          • krzysztof1
            Posted April 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

            Fortunately no. Just a salad.

      • Posted April 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        I loved it too. And the cadaver part was really cool.

      • darrelle
        Posted April 12, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Agree that YIF is better than the new Cosmos. Cosmos is way above average but YIF is much better. What is really great is having two such shows demonstrating how much better it can be done.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Having watched YIF finally, I have to agree. I like Cosmos but YIF is better.

  5. Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I saw the first episode, and it’s great! I’m loving all the nature, environmental and evolution stuff on TV these days.

    There’s “Nature’s Curiosities” with David Attenborough.
    Also “Life Force” on OASIShd,

    which might not be available outside Canada, but the episodes might get posted in time on youtube.

    • Merilee
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      When’s Nature’s Curiosities supposed to air in Canada?

      • Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        Ooops… make that *Natural* Curiosities!

        TVO (TV Ontario, for our friends down south -so sorry you won’t be able to view this) showed two consecutive half-hour episodes on Wed. around 7 or 7:30pm (please double check this). Then TVO re-aired it in the wee hours, 1am Friday. Next episode will be on Wed. April 16 (again 7 or 7:30, re-airing on Fri. 1AM April 18).

        Here’s last Wed.’s ep. 4 on elephants:


        Also other past episodes on youtube (everyone can get this of course!):

        Other great science shows are Alien Deep with Bob Ballard and Tipping Points:

  6. Derek Freyberg
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I saw the first episode on Wednesday evening (though I’m ticked off that my local PBS station put it on at 10 p.m. instead of earlied), and was very impressed. Shubin is a great presenter, and the animation/CGI is to my mind much better than that of “Cosmos”: as an example, the tiktaalik fossil in the box that Shubin had taken back to Canada coming alive and crawling into the water was spectacular.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, what’s up with the 10pm time slot? That was the same with my local station too.

      • uncleebeneezer
        Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Me three. I only got to see the first half (second is waiting on DVR for this weekend) due to the 10 pm start time.

        So far, loving it. YIF is one of my favorite books for explaining evolution. I love the way it integrates info from anatomy, paleontology, genetics etc., and shows how ALL of them support the theory of evolution. Shubin does a great job of showing how it all ties together. I can’t wait til he gets to the hox genes stuff. That was one of my favorite parts of the book. And Shubin has such wonderful enthusiasm for science and comes across as such a likable guy. His energy is great for this type of series. I don’t imagine YIF will be on the radar of creationists as much as Cosmos, but YIF is the one that should REALLY perturb the fundies if they ever bother to watch it.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted April 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        It seems to have become a tradition that ‘science night’ on PBS starts with Nature, then Nova, and then whatever other show they have, often Secrets of the Dead.
        Nature, I suspect, draws heavily from the older end of PBS’s demographic. Maybe the old folks want to be able to get to bed by nine? 😉

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted April 12, 2014 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        I was wondering that too. Nova and Nature both have an 8 PM timeslot and don’t shy away from evolution.

        There were pretty detailed images of dissection of a human hand, and a fair amount of testicle talk, so I’m wondering if either of those played into timeslot considerations.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:20 am | Permalink

          Ha ha “testicle talk” sounds like it could be its own show!

          Maybe the dissection parts forced it into the later time slot.

          I finally watched my recorded episode. I thought it was really good! I thought the animation was especially helpful in showing how the fish looked and things are explained really well, including how they excavated the fossils.

          • Latverian Diplomat
            Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

            It’s hard to overestimate the prudery of the gatekeepers of American broadcast media.

            On the other hand, the dissection stuff was graphic, and I could see some elementary school age kids being troubled by it (and others thinking it was the coolest thing ever, but that’s kids for you). Based on that alone, I was OK with the later time slot.

    • Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      though I’m ticked off that my local PBS station put it on at 10 p.m.

      Pam and I assumed they put it on that late in case the nasty evolution stuff frightened the horses. Or the kids. Or . . .

  7. Bob J.
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Ah! Professors burning the midnight oil before an exam.

  8. krzysztof1
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Watched the first episode. Totally great! Loved the book too.

  9. Griff
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I loved ‘Your Inner…’. One of those books that really made me think “Science FTW”.

  10. moarscienceplz
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I really loved the first episode and can’t wait for more. Also, as I said in another post, I really liked that Neil shared the spotlight with other scientists who are still breathing, and that some of them are women.
    I especially liked the discussion of how we have co-opted the pharyngeal arches to so many varied purposes. I only wish the graphics could have made it a bit clearer how they develop. I think that once a person grasps how we start with embryonic gills and re-purpose them into ear bones and all that other good stuff, it really makes accepting evolution practically a slam-dunk.

  11. George
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Some issues for a UofC alum watching the first episode. I hope Neil really did not release a fruit fly in the Harper Library Reading Room – the most beautiful indoor space on campus. Does not need a fruit fly infestation.

    It was also nice to see Cliff Tabin. I went to college with him. Nice to see he has done something with his life. He was not quite as stupid as some other 18 year olds – like me.

    • Posted April 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      That might have been CG. If not, it will be dead in a few hours. They desiccate pretty quickly.
      Now chances are it was a transgenic fruit fly with virus DNA…

  12. sgo
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I had made a note of it when the series was announced here at WEIT. I missed the first few minutes last Wednesday (initially I too thought it started at 21:00 instead of at 22:00). It was great! I like how they put it together and mixed different stories in between the trips to the arctic for fossil hunting. The presentation by Shubin is great – his enthusiasm shows really well and it makes for great TV. I don’t normally watch a lot of TV, but with Your Inner Fish and Cosmos …

    I have one more reason to like the series: instead of reading, I listened to the audiobook version of Your Inner Fish. That was nice, but difficult, since one obviously misses the diagrams and figures …

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      I don’t normally watch a lot of TV, but with Your Inner Fish and Cosmos …

      Exactly the same situation here. It feels really odd watching programmes rather than movies!

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      Aargh! And now I learn that Showtime has a new series, Years of Living Dangerously, about climate change. My habits of a lifetime are under threat this spring . . .

  13. Kathy
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the best and most coherent documentaries I’ve seen both on what evolution really is, and how science works. The portrait of common ancestry is vivid and moving, and the demonstration of how generations of scientists build upon earlier work is just fantastic. This is science documentary film making at its best.

  14. Jonathan Smith
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:48 am | Permalink


    Sub ++++++

  15. marksolock
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  16. azhael
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    All i can say is that biology is the coolest fucking thing ever….:)

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