One of the most popular shows on the Discovery Channel is Mythbusters, a kind of cross between Penn and Teller's Bullshit and Junkyard Wars. An entertaining and fun show to watch, it's been airing since 2003. While some episodes have been available through the Discovery Channel's web site (and pretty pricey at that) the only mass market release has been a single special, Mega Movie Myths (read DVDTalk reviewer Greg Elwell's take on that DVD here.) Now fans of the show can get a large dose of 12 episodes in The Mythbusters Collection 1. While there are a lot of great shows in this set, it wasn't put together with the best of care, and it is not a season set as many people would assume (including me.)
Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are the Mythbusters, a pair of mechanically inclined individuals who like to test all of those myths that everyone has heard and many people believe. Things like the exploding toilet; a woman dumps a jar of paint thinner into the toilet and when her husband throws in a lit cigarette an hour later, he ends up with burns all over his behind. Could it really happen though? Each week Jamie and Adam take on three (usually) different myths and try to see if they can confirm or 'bust' them.
The entertainment comes largely from the interaction of the two hosts, Jamie and Adam. They are like vinegar and water, and approach each problem from totally different angles. Jamie is the thoughtful, careful part of the team. He wants to plan out each experiment, see if they can improve on it, and after all the angles have been examined then he goes into the shop to create the machinery needed. Adam on the other hand is much more impulsive. He's like that ADHD kid from second grade who couldn't sit still. He wants to take the first idea that springs into his head and run with it. He just flies by the seat of his pants and sees what happens. Between the two of them, they come up with some interesting and unique ways of testing myths.
These tests (often involving explosions if at all possible) are sometimes ingenious. How would you test the old story of the falling penny? If someone throws a penny off the top of the Empire State Building, as the myth goes, it will be traveling so fast that it will kill whoever it hits, and barring that burry itself in the cement sidewalk. The Mythbusters first determined the terminal velocity of a cent piece and then jury-rigged a gun to fire it at that speed. (Terminal velocity is the speed at which the air resistance prevents a falling object from traveling any faster.) Armed with their penny-shooting gun, the guys shoot coins at concrete, asphalt, and different objects (including Adam's butt) to see what happens.
To test various myths Jamie and Adam have dropped cars from great heights, put Jamie in a coffin and buried him, and even dropped themselves from a crane in airplane seats to see if the crash position airlines instruct passengers to get into in the event of a forced landing helps. This is all dynamic and exciting and makes for some great TV.
The only problem I have is that the pair (and the announcer) often describes what they are doing as "science." As far as scientific experiments go, the stunts they pull off for the camera leave a lot to be desired. Neither of the hosts have a background in science (nor does anyone else associated with the show apparently), and the protocol that they come up with often leaves something to be desired. They should try to repeat their results, have controls, use larger sample sizes, and set criteria for confirming or busting a myth before hand. This is a minor gripe, but every time Adam talked about doing science (especially after sticking his face up to a working vacuum cleaner motor causing his lip to get sucked in and lacerated) I cringe.
The main gripe I have with this set is the way it is arranged. First off, this isn't a season set. Why not? Haven't consumers voted overwhelmingly with their wallets that they want entire seasons of shows that they like??? The set begins by skipping the first three episodes, pilots that were aired about half a year before the first season started. They do however include the first six episodes from season one. So far so good. After that however, this set starts skipping around, presenting four shows from season 2, but not in the order that they aired.
Okay, so they're going for a 'best of' set maybe. Well if that's the case, why did they include two clip shows? Originally airing as "specials", these two shows are filled with clips from the first two seasons that are arranged around a common theme. The problem is that a good number of these clips come from shows included in this collection. Why? The best thing would have been to put the best 12 episodes in this collection (barring season sets of course) but including rather lame clip shows is a bit of an insult.
This set contains the following episodes:
S1E1 - Ice Bullet, Exploding Toilet, Who Gets Wetter in the Rain, Runners
This four disc set comes in a clear single width DVD case. There are two discs on each side of the case overlapping each other. I really dislike this style of case and wish that they had used an inner leaf to hold a pair of the discs. Taking out one disc to get to the bottom one can be a pain. There isn't an insert but the cover is reversible.
The stereo soundtrack is fine but not outstanding. The show isn't recorded under optimal conditions, it's more like a documentary than a movie, and sometimes a comment or two is hard to hear. The explosions and crashes don't have the punch that I was hoping they would either, but that's not too surprising given the origins of the show. There are no subtitles.
The 1.78:1 image is enhanced for widescreen displays and looks good. As was mentioned in the audio section, this show isn't recorded on a set but in a workshop and the lighting and filming conditions aren't always optimal. Even so, the program looks good. There are some digital defects, a bit of aliasing and some minor blocking, but nothing too great. The image quality is very acceptable for a show of this type.
I was a bit disappointed in the bonus features. The only extra is the hour long episode Mythbusters: Revealed. The DVD case states that this has never been shown on the Discovery Channel, but more than one episode guide lists it as appearing on April 27, 2005. This is a behind the scenes look at the show, and includes some funny outtakes as well as interviews with the cast. It's a great episode; I just wish they had included more.
This is a really fun show, and if it gets people thinking about some
things they've always taken as fact, so much the better. The program
itself gets a very strong recommendation, but this set only rates a Rental
since it's not a season set and includes two clip shows that repeat a lot
that is available elsewhere on the disc.