“How do you want to call it?”
MythBusters is the television equivalent of The Little Engine That Could. Debuting in 2003, the show’s premise is simple: take well-known idioms, long-held beliefs perpetuated by society at large (or a more concentrated element such as Hollywood), and generally accepted theories and put them to the test. Fast-forward to 2014 and it’s now in its 16th season. One of the main reasons the show continues to works so well is that it never strays far from its original premise. There’s a myth and it must be tested. There can be three probable outcomes. Number one, the myth is confirmed. Number two, the myth is plausible but there are some conditions to go along with that verdict. Number three, it’s busted; the parameters of the myth are simply not met.
However faithfulness to the foundation is only one part of the show’s success. The bulk of that triumph is due to the cast, who have been mainstays for well over a decade and are now pop culture icons in their own right. Led by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, they are joined by co-hosts Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara. Jamie and Adam are special effects artists who have been working in the entertainment business for decades while Kari, Grant and Tory all bring specialties of their own. Kari started out as an intern during the first season of MythBusters so she has grown to understand a little bit about everything, but it’s clear she loves demolition. Tory enjoys fabrication and model building while Grant brings a history of working with robotics to the team, so he’s usually the one creating a remote-control element when needed.
Now, I will not claim to understand how the Discovery Channel chooses which episodes to release when. I’ll simply report the facts, which are thus: MythBusters: Collection 11 features ten episodes over two discs. The curious thing is these episodes comprise the last half of season nine, which aired here in the United States at the end of 2011. I’ve included the original airdates as a couple of the episodes are presented out of airing order. Brief descriptions are included as well, sans any test results.
* “Bikes and Bazookas” — Adam and Jamie take to the road to determine whether or not a motorcycle is a greener machine than a car. Kari, Grant, and Tory finally get the chance to launch an RPG in order to see if a bullet could ignite a bazooka.
* “Newton’s Crane Cradle” — Adam and Jamie face a difficult challenge: is it possible to use wrecking balls to create the world’s largest Newton’s cradle? Meanwhile Kari, Grant, and Tory take a trip to Tinseltown when they test whether a bird landing on the hood of a teetering car is enough to send that car off a cliff.
* “Walking a Straight Line” — Adam and Jamie wander around — literally — when they explore whether or not a human deprived of their eyesight can walk in a straight line. Then Grant, Tory, and Kari wonder whether or not carrying around binary explosives in the trunk of your car could result in an accidental explosion.
* “Duct Tape Plane” — Adam and Jamie get to deal with a trio of excavator myths while Grant, Tory, and Kari take to the skies to test whether or not it’s possible to repair a plane using only duct tape after its hull has been attacked by a bear.
* “Flying Guillotine” — Adam and Jamie go back to basic training wondering whether or not it’s possible to use the explosive C-4 as a cooking fuel. Kari, Grant and Tory get to test a kung fu myth: that of the legendary flying guillotine, a weapon which may or may not have actually existed.
* “Drain Disaster” — Adam and Jamie test whether a sewer explosion would result in the manhole covers being propelled sky-high; while Kari, Grant, and Tory test a trio of myths regarding spray-on truck bed liner.
* “Wheel of Mythfortune” — Everyone gets a turn spinning the wheel in order to test different mini-myths sent in by viewers.
* “Toilet Bomb” — Adam and Jamie get close to one another as they test out a movie myth about an exploding toilet; while Kari, Grant and Tory get some help to determine whether flying planes in a V, like birds, would indeed save fuel.
* “Location Location Location” — The team counts down their 12 favorite places to go in order to test myths.
* “Wet and Wild” — A dozen of the wettest myths the team has tested get reviewed with some behind-the-scenes fun added in.
Together the MythBusters team brings the most important elements there are to an educational show which strives for entertainment value as well. Those elements are: a genuine love for their jobs, a passion for the science behind what they are testing, and a sincere camaraderie with and affection for their fellow team members. If the quintet didn’t get along MythBusters would be busted, to borrow a phrase. And there’s no faking the chemistry between the cast. They occasionally have trying moments, sure, but overall each episode clearly demonstrates this is the best job in the world and they not only know it they enjoy every moment they spend together.
The video pallette is alright if a bit flat at times. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer occasionally displays some noise and other artefacting but never enough to cause a major distraction. Indeed I only noticed it during the “talking head” shots. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is a bit of a letdown. I found myself turning up the volume at times. There isn’t a lot of music, but what there is found can be a bit faint and at times the dialogue is a bit hard to hear. There are no special features, but if you’re looking for some additional MythBusters stuff not contained within the episodes then head over to the official site which has plenty of behind-the-scenes to keep you entertained.
MythBusters is a wonderful example of the possible outcome when combining education with entertainment. Though cautioned not to try anything we are about to see at home, there’s no doubt we can vicariously experience the joys of science when watching the team tackle all sorts of myths. It’s an easy show to recommend.