Each show discusses a specific science topic and normally has three guests; two scientists to offer an expert opinion, and third, normally a comedian, to add some levity. Occasionally, as in the case of Ben Miller and Dara Ó Briain (who both studied physics to Phd level), they may have a background in science too.
This series includes examples of:
- Ambiguous Syntax: The title of the show, occasionally discussed by the panel. If a cage is infinite, how is it a cage? Or is it a finite cage somehow containing an infinite number of monkeys? Or is it just one single, infinitely huge monkey, and if so, how could there even be a cage...?
- Berserk Button: Do NOT mention astrology near Brian Cox.
- British Brevity: Only six episodes per series, but in series one to three there were only four.
- Cameo: Brian Cox and Robin Ince made a cameo in a BBC Christmas Special The Entire Universe, as supposedly the straight men to the Rutland Weekend Television crew.note
- Catchphrase: "AND THIS IS OUR PANEL!"
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first series included some scripted comedy sketches, none of which were anywhere near as funny as the unscripted banter between guests. These were quickly dropped.
- Expository Theme Tune: Having gone for several series without one, there is now a song specially written by Eric Idle. It even made an appearance in the above Christmas special.
- Freudian Slip: Deliberate by Dr Richard Wiseman, who says Freudian theory is completely untesticle.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: When introducing Sir Patrick Stewart in a episode about "Space Exploration" Robin Ince reels off a long list of his classical and Shakespearean theatre credits before ending with "and some American TV show as well".
- Monkeys on a Typewriter: The inspiration for the title. One listener once wrote in to ask what the ACTUAL dimensions of the hypothetical cage were, since it'd still be an infinitely sized cage if two dimensions were fixed but smaller than a monkey and the final dimension infinitely big.
- Running Gag:
- When a strawberry is considered dead.
- Brian's perfect hair (which may or may not be a wig).
- Brian's youthfulness (believe it or not, Brian is older than Robin. Not by much but still).
- Brian's wealth and the fact that he always has people doing stuff for him.
- Brian's wistful soliloquies up mountains, volcanos, and other high places attracting women (and some men).
- D:Ream's 1994 song "and Things Can Only Get Better", which featured a young Brian Cox on keyboards. (Sort of; he wasn't on the record itself but since he was in the live band, he had to play it a lot.)
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Physicist Brian Coxs perpetual scorn for chemistry, describing physics as the study of the foundations of the universe, biology as study of all the multitudes of life, and chemistry as playing with smells and stuff.