Review: ‘MythBusters Jr.’ brings seriously entertaining — and legit —science back, this time with kids
“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 premiering 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, though 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 says confidentially to however many people will be 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; 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.
When: 6 and 9 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd
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