As a father of two boys who watches his sons' eyes light up with delight every time hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman do something like blow a cement truck into smithereens, I may be forgiven for slightly paraphrasing a famous Waylon Jennings-Willie Nelson hit by saying, "Parents, don't let your babies grow up to be Mythbusters." This insanely popular Discovery Channel staple, now in its fifth season, is a wonderful amalgamation of scientific inquiry mixed with debunking of urban legends, certainly an unbeatable combination for a certain target demographic that likes to ignore that "don't try this at home" mantra that always seems to accompany each episode.
What makes Mythbusters so consistently entertaining, aside from the frequently fascinating science fact it imparts in each episode, is the fun and often hilarious interplay between hosts Savage and Hyneman. Hyneman is the more buttoned-down, matter-of-fact guy of the two, calmly reasoning his way through such dilemmas as how to increase salsa's effect of oxidizing jailhouse window bars to get them to rust, break, and allow an escape (someone in Mexico allegedly did this and, believe it or not, the Busters show that it is indeed possible). Savage is the ADHD kid of the pair, manically moving from insane idea to even more insane idea, summed up best in this same episode when his attempt to use a urine soaked silk shirt to bend the jail bars (a la a Jackie Chan film he had recently seen) doesn't quite do the trick. Adding to the fun is narrator Bill Lee's often acerbic commentary, which is laugh out loud hilarious most of the time.
This particular compilation is literally quite explosive, subtitled as it is "The Big Blasts Collection." Each episode of Mythbusters typically features at least two urban legends that are being explored, each intercut with the other (the jailbreak episode, for example, took over four months of inquiry to complete), and so each episode in this set features at least one myth that includes something going boom. Or even BOOM! Among the various and sundried items you will see go up in smoke in these episodes are a cement truck, a port-a-potty, a propane tank, a water heater and, in one of the stranger moments in the series (which is, frankly, made up of strange moments), a farmer's pants.
While Hyneman, Savage, and their support staff always make sure to discuss the actual science behind this mayhem, the fun is, after all, in watching the experiments, which are always perfect examples of the scientific method, if equally always on the bizarre side. When the Busters attempt to see if it's possible to clean slag out of a cement truck by setting off explosives, they slowly up the ante with ever bigger payloads, finally figuring out that the myth is at least possible, if not probable. But not content to stop there, they decide to completely blow up the truck with an unbelievable amount of packaged plastic explosive, which requires a retired FBI agent and explosives expert to be in attendance. In the port-a-potty segment, when they can't quite get the works to completely detonate with a rigged up butane lighter, they decide a flare might do the trick. It does. This is part of the outright hilarity of each episode--it's a parent's worst nightmare, as you may be telling your kids over and over, "If I ever catch you doing anything remotely like this....," even as you attempt to stifle your own giggles at Hyneman and Savage's antics.
If you and/or your kids are convinced that science can't be fun, Mythbusters is about as perfect an antidote to that assumption as can be found on television. Each episode not only imparts quite a bit of interesting, if not exactly useful, information, it does so in an unerringly funny and engaging way. The Busters are obviously having a ball setting up these experiments and carrying them out, and that sort of childlike wonder fills each episode to the brim, creating a sort of contagious joy when any individual myth is either debunked or confirmed. The actual end result is actually ultimately not that important, as the "getting there" is more than half the fun. Mythbusters, as outré as it often is, is one of the crown jewels of Discovery Channel, and I for one hope that there are enough urban legends to keep it going for years to come.