‘ MythBusters, Jr.’ brings se­ri­ously en­ter­tain­ing — and le­git — science back, this time with kids

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - NEWS - 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 s e r i e s t h at p re m i e re d 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, Jon Lung and Brian Louden, cho­sen through a re­al­ity- show com­pe­ti­tion, “MythBusters: The Search.” 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, al­though he is seen here in flash­back snip­pets — is back, as the troop leader to a sex­tet of teens and pre- teens, smart, skill­ful and tele­genic with­out be­ing the sort of kids who come with head shots. They are fear­less too, both in the face of ma­chin­ery and in be­ing on tele­vi­sion — they are called on, at times, if only in snip­pets, 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, split­ting into two teams of three, 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 Huey- You, 12, is a col­lege sopho­more, “which is more col­lege than I have,” Sav­age said con­fi­den­tially.) 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 said, 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 said, 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; cer­tainly, it shared a mo­ment with maker cul­ture, the ad­vance­ment of STEAM cur­ricu­lum. This teenage ver­sion feels right some­how; less like a gim­mick than the next step, a mis­sion ful­filled. With duct tape.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.