Top 10 TV shows of the decade – #9
I’m really not one for how-stuff-works documentary shows. As well as all the Hitler stuff, to my poncey writer eyes, Discovery Channel looks to be comprised of ex-Red Dwarf actors standing up a girder and telling you how it was built, or shows like Phil Tufnel’s Really Massive Engines. I’m one of those girly-men who can’t even drive, let alone take apart anything more complicated than a banana, but then I found Mythbusters.
It’s become a cliché to compare the hosts to the highschool science teachers you wish you’d had, but it’s a true comparison all the same. Adam is the excitable nerd whose enthusiasm doesn’t dampen even when he’s on fire, while Jamie is your friend’s stern dad who glares over the top of his newspaper while you muck about in the living room, then one day out of the blue invites you out into the yard to help him jam the lawnmower full of fireworks just to see what happens. Of course as a pathetic geek, I have to disgrace myself by mentioning Kari Bryon, in the vain hope that she Googles herself looking for ugly bloggers to elope with.
Seeing as the Mythbusters stay away from supernatural type myths like aliens and the lady with the lobsters up her chuff, don’t go expecting scientific confirmation on the existence of Errol Flynn’s scat parties any time soon. Instead, there’s a heavy focus on really cool stuff that nobody has ever had the means or insanity to put to the test before, like if you can open a safe with dynamite, if it’s possible to cut down a tree with a mini-gun (as in Predator), or whether a ninja really can run across the top of a lake. Obviously there’s no narrative so you can dive into any random episode and get right into it, but a great entry point are the movie myth episodes that dissect the reality of anything from James Bond to the wacky skydive fights in Point Break.
The show absolutely lives on the passion of the hosts, who have a clear love and understanding of what they’re doing, instead of the usual twattishly haircutted prettyboy foetuses that stink up prime-time TV with such a complete and total lack of anything that you could replace them with a few strands of hair glued to a paper plate and nobody would notice. Try and picture Mythbusters being hosted by that absolute fuck Vernon Kay. You can’t, the human brain has a coping mechanism that prevents such harrowing images from manifesting. I gave it my best, but there was nothing in my head but a burst of fuzzy static and the sound of a thousand anguished voices wailing for me to end their miserable lives. This is the era of hosts being chosen on the basis of a top 5 finish in the most recent I’m A Celebrity, or on having a name that could be used as a pun in the title, and of being sneered at for having the pathetic audacity to be give a shit about anything. “There’s a flowerbed, let’s smash it up!” Well, the Mythbusters do give a shit, and it’s glorious. When stoic man-walrus Jamie giggles with joy – usually in response to gargantuan near-Hiroshima explosion – you’re right there with him.
The endless contraptions they weld together are the kind of A-Team van big boy’s fantasies you know you’ll never have the skillz or opportunity to do yourself, so alas we must dream of a Willy Wonka style golden ticket give-away where the lucky winner gets to nose about in the workshop before inevitably getting yelled at by Jamie for touching a broomstick with a laser pointer sellotaped to it that’s actually a home-made rocket launcher capable of knocking the moon out of the sky.
As with most shows in this list, there have been so many episodes that it’d be impossible to start reeling off the bits that were great, because it’s all great, so for me, aside from all the really big bangs, the surprise of discovering – via the simple medium of a big hollowed out turd on a piece of string – that elephants really are afraid of mice – just like in cartoons – will stay with me forever. Maybe the enormous popularity of Mythbusters is partly down to the much needed swing in the last few years towards science and fact-based rationalism. Dawkins, Randi, the Nu-Atheism movement, and blowing shit the fuck up. Mostly though, it’s such a success because it’s just a fantastic show.
Mythbusters is the ninth greatest show of the decade.