Saturday, October 24, 2015

MythBusters is ending

All good things come to an end. (Bad things, it seems, go on forever: witness this country's unceasing infatuation with anti-intellectualism and religious fanaticism.)

So it's no surprise that the only good reality show, MythBusters, is leaving the airwaves with the upcoming season, per Entertainment Weekly.

The EW interview with Jamie Hyneman is the only one I've ever read. It confirms much of what I suspected: he's a builder, first, last and always, and the show was just a way to build things he might otherwise not have had the excuse (or money) to build. As such, the end of the show is almost a relief to him. I'm surprised he let it go on this long, in fact, as he thoroughly dislikes the compromises the process of shooting the show forces on his design and implementation.

MythBusters isn't a science program, but it's probably the closest brush with scientific principles a lot of non-scientists get. Its primary value is getting people interested in testing hypotheses, and engineering. That Hyneman and Adam Savage made a point of listening to fan critiques, and occasionally revisited experiments to address those critiques, is a tremendous boon: it's the scientific method in action. Heaven knows, we need as much of that as we can get in a country that is so abysmally ignorant of what it means to pursue science.

Ending the show was the right call: it has felt a little tired, and sometimes desperate for material, for a few years now. That said, its end will leave a void. Much as I like Richard Hamilton's Science of Stupid, it doesn't inspire one to do anything except laugh at other people's misfortunes: it's America's Funniest Home Videos with a dusting of biomechanics and basic physics. Other would-be competitors have been abysmally bad. Straight science shows like Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos, admirable as they are, don't have MythBusters' goofy charm: you already have to be interested in astronomy, cosmology, history, biology, etc., to be interested in those other shows. (I found Tyson's other show, StarTalk, to be unfocused and boring.)

So even though I think MythBusters is right to end while it still has a little steam, I'll be sorry to see it go. We badly need more of what the show brought to pop culture.

Thanks, guys, for so many hours of hilarious and smart TV.

No comments:

Post a Comment