‘Mythbusters Jr.’ brings back le­git science, with kids

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - TELEVISION/EXPLORE - BY ROBERT LLOYD Los An­ge­les Times

“Mythbusters,” the show that made science and en­gi­neer­ing crazy and hi­lar­i­ous, like a cross be­tween “Mr. Wizard” and “Jack­ass,” has a new off­spring: “Mythbusters, Jr.,” a 10-episode se­ries that pre­miered Wed­nes­day on Science Chan­nel. (The orig­i­nal “Mythbusters,” which ran from 2003 to 2016 on Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, came back to life in 2017 on Science, with new hosts. I have not seen it.)

Only a hor­ri­ble per­son would have a bad word to say about this show. Do you have a prob­lem with the sci­en­tific method? Do you hate chil­dren?

Orig­i­nal Myth­buster Adam Sav­age, the one who en­joyed be­ing on tele­vi­sion – his part­ner, Jamie Hyne­man, did not es­pe­cially, though he is seen here in flash­back snip­pets – is back, as troop leader to a sex­tet of teens and pre­teens, smart, skill­ful and tele­genic with­out be­ing the sort of kids who come with head shots. They are fear­less in the face of ma­chin­ery and in be­ing on tele­vi­sion – they are called on, at times, to do com­edy, and ac­quit them­selves well.

Crashes and ex­plo­sions loom large in the se­ries’ his­tory, but noth­ing is blown up in “Jr.’s” open­ing episode, or pur­posely run into some­thing else, al­though a 12-year-old is al­lowed to drive a car.

The mat­ter is all duct tape-re­lated, an old fa­vorite on “Mythbusters,” where it has been used to make a bridge, a can­non, a cat­a­pult, a boat and an air­plane fuse­lage; lift an au­to­mo­bile; and trap a chicken – no, not with the sticky side.

Here, the Ju­nior MBS in­ves­ti­gate whether duct tape can be used to make a work­able parachute – Buster the dummy is the fall guy, as it were – and also to de­ter­mine whether you can use it to make a set of driv­able tires. As to whether ei­ther of these no­tions were ever dis­cussed enough in the world to merit be­ing called myths – if, in­deed, they have ever been dis­cussed at all, any­where but here – I have my doubts. But, you know, so what?

Sim­i­larly, these kids ob­vi­ously do not bear the full weight of re­search and de­vel­op­ment for putting these projects into mo­tion, as much re­spon­si­bil­ity as the edit­ing seems to give them. There are things we don’t see, or don’t see much – adult as­sis­tants pop­ping up here and there around the mar­gins. But what we do see is ac­tual enough. The cast has knowl­edge and skills and real-world awards. (Can­nan Hueyyou, 12, is a col­lege sopho­more, “which is more col­lege than I have,” Sav­age says con­fi­den­tially to the peo­ple watch­ing.) And the ex­per­i­ments, which take place on hal­lowed Mythbusters ground around the East Bay, across the wa­ter from San Fran­cisco, are nec­es­sar­ily au­then­tic. There is a rep­u­ta­tion to safe­guard.

Sav­age, who had the en­ergy of a kids’ show host even be­fore he hosted a show full of kids, man­ages to play both the re­spon­si­ble adult and the in­ner child that his outer adult keeps in check. (Here he comes on a skate­board.) He’s a sort of Jimmy Dodd to these Steam-tas­tic Mythka­teers, if I may be ob­scure, a com­bi­na­tion pied piper, chap­eron (“If there is some rea­son we have to run,” he says, on the ground where Buster will de­scend slowly or quickly by parachute, “fol­low me”) and sur­ro­gate par­ent, giving a kid his first driv­ing les­son or tak­ing three kids on a he­li­copter ride: “The sheer de­light on their faces,” he says, with sheer de­light on his face.

I have no fig­ures to back it up, but it seems likely that “Mythbusters,” a show about do­ing se­ri­ous science un­se­ri­ously, did as much as any­thing on tele­vi­sion to get young peo­ple in­ter­ested in science and en­gi­neer­ing. This teenage ver­sion feels right some­how; less like a gim­mick than the next step, a mis­sion ful­filled. With duct tape.


Adam Sav­age re­turns as host of the new “Mythbusters Jr.” on the Science Chan­nel.

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