What is there to say about Destroyed in Seconds (2008), a Discovery Channel reality series produced by Pilgrim Films & Television and released as a two-disc DVD set via Image Entertainment? Not much. If you like to watch things crash, implode, explode, fall over, disintegrate and/or take a beating - as this critic sometimes does - then this is for you.
The 22-minute episodes, 12 in all, are spread over two single-sided discs and, amusingly, are numbered backwards from "00:12" to "00:01," like a ticking time bomb. There are no extra features, but each episode has at least several awesomely spectacular scenes of destruction.
For what it's worth, the series is hosted by Fox/NFL sportscaster Ron Pitts, who introduces each episode from what looks like some remote section of Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. He's really only there to put a human face on what's essentially a clip show.
The clips tend to be of the same type from episode-to-episode with, invariably, high-speed boat crashes, air show collisions, industrial explosions, natural disasters (usually a hurricane/typhoon or tornado), stock car and drag strip crashes, and so on. Sometimes archival footage stretching back to the 1930s is used: overly familiar footage of the Hindenburg crash, H-bomb tests, and the one-of-a-kind destruction of "Galloping Gertie," the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that oscillated like a character in a Max & Dave Fleischer cartoon.
Much of the footage is jaw-droppingly spectacular: a welding supplies site in Dallas catches fire, sending heavy, man-sized acetylene tanks shooting hundreds of feet into the air and onto a nearby, busy freeway; a commuter train vs. 18-wheeler, the latter instantly turned into confetti; the collapse of an eight-story building in Manila, like something out of Godzilla; men in the back of a pick-up truck fleeing for their lives from a spectacularly destructive mudslide mere feet away.
The issue of taste: Shows like this walk a very fine line trying to balance wanting to exploit all this undeniably eye-popping footage while coming to terms with the real-world injury and death accompanying these types of images. Most of the time, the producers exhibit reasonable restraint. If the narration is to be believed, in the vast majority of clips either no one is hurt or the victims' injuries are minor. In some cases the injuries are more serious, but these tend to happen to people working in highly dangerous professions to begin with, like racecar drivers and jet fighter pilots. Though 37 people died in the Hindenburg crash, that footage is so iconic I doubt hardly anyone over the age of 15 hasn't already seen it at least once. However, there are a couple of clips of fatal disasters that the show's producers probably shouldn't have used, such as a water tower/crane accident that's pretty horrifying. Still, in almost every show there is spectacular destruction you'd think no one could possibly walk away from but, in most cases, they do.
Video & Audio
Oddly, the full-frame shows default to English subtitles. It's easy enough to turn those off, but both discs I watched had that strange defect. The quality of the disaster footage varies, of course, but generally the show looks quite good. The Dolby Digital Stereo audio is fine; most of the footage has remixed sound effects anyway, but it serves its function. The total running time is 4 hours, 24 minutes. There are no Extra Features, but the packaging helpfully includes an episode guide listing key segments of each show.
There's a big "Holy Crap!" quotient to Destroyed in Seconds, an addictive show I admit to racing through at a rate of about one a day until it was done. Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Tora-san DVD boxed set, is on sale now.