MythBusters, Discovery Channel

"Could that really happen?" is one of the most common responses to a wild myth or tall tale. The show MythBusters tackles these myths, applying the scientific method, improvised technology, and an exuberant sense of humor.
The stars of MythBusters are Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, two special effects veterans. They're joined by some younger scientists: Kari Byron, Salvatore Belleci ("Tory"), and Grant Imahara. Each episode has them tackling between three and five myths, with Jamie and Adam usually working together on some, and Kari, Salvatore, and Grant (Editor's note: otherwise known as "the build team") working together on the others.

The myths are those that can be scientifically recreated in a controlled setting. You won't see these folks trying to find Bigfoot, prove or disprove the existence of the afterlife, or attempting to communicate with UFOs. You will see them trying to create an exploding jawbreaker, slide down a ski lift cable with jeans, cut down a tree with a machine gun, or escape from a car that's underwater. Crashes and explosions are very frequent.

Some shows have a random collection of myths, though theme shows are not uncommon: They've done shows focusing on myths in James Bond movies, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, airplanes, driving, superheroes, and a two-parter focusing on the movie Jaws. We get to see the folks from the start of exploring a myth -- usually figuring things out and using models to see how it should work -- to building what they need to try things and finally going "full scale." They explain the principles behind what they're doing ("warning: science content" pops up before these moments) and attack each myth with zeal and focus. Their personalities come through a lot: Adam is almost childlike, bouncing with energy and likely to come up with an elaborate solution, while Jamie is more subdued and pragmatic. At the end, they declare the myth busted (it wouldn't work), plausible (they had partial success or demonstrated that it could work), or confirmed (it worked!).

MythBusters is often as concerned with big effects as the proof or refutation of the myth, and they'll keep going after the answer is known. (For example, they disproved quickly that James Bond's gun wouldn't ignite a propane tank -- it didn't even penetrate the container -- so they kept using bigger and bigger guns until they had a boom.) The show can also get a bit cheesy at times, especially if Adam puts on a costume, adopts an accent, or both. That said, MythBusters does a great job of both educating and entertaining, and I'll keep tuning in to see what myth they tackle next!

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: