Mythbusters: Collection 7
Gaiam // Unrated // $19.98 // September 13, 2011
Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 21, 2011
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Graphical Version
Of any scientific documentary program in the last decade, it's doubtful that any have impacted popular culture as much as "Mythbusters." It's a simple premise: take urban legends, long-standing beliefs, or some long-standing cinematic cliches (specific and non-specific), and apply some critical thinking to find out whether or not the popular belief holds up under the scrutiny of science. Led by special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, "Mythbusters" quickly turned into one of the Discovery Channel's biggest and longest-running success stories.

"Mythbusters": Collection 7 is a jumble of slightly random but not completely shuffled episodes from the end of the 7th and beginning of the 8th season of the show, which aired at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010. I don't watch much TV as it airs, so what I've seen of the show is a totally random assortment of episodes whenever it's been on. What seems most impressive about this DVD set is that the show hasn't been reduced to silly, short, or uninteresting myths in the nearly ten years the show's been on the air.

The first disc houses two of the best episodes in the set: "Dumpster Diving" and "Unarmed and Unharmed." In the former, Jamie and Adam try to determine how safe it is to dive off a building into a dumpster like heroes in the movies, while the second team (Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara) investigate whether or not a diver in an old-fashioned dive suit will get crushed into their helmet when the pressure is cut. The second episode finds Adam and Jamie investigating the idea of shooting an attacker's gun to disarm them, with Team B testing the freeway jump from the film Speed.

In both episodes, the show finds a good balance: the dumpster and Speed myths are a bit underwhelming, but the other myth is more than enough to hold up the entire episode. Both the diving suit and gun-shooting integrate also manage to integrate the most amusing aspects of the show: a bit of violence, ridiculous props, and the joy of suspense. In the former, Kari carves a mini-Grant out of gelatin to drop into a pool for their scale run, and in the latter, Adam and Jamie construct various gun props to try and simulate the sensation of holding a gun while it's being shot. In several episodes on the set, Kari also takes a maternity leave, with the enthusiastic Jessi Combs temporarily replacing her. The chemistry of both groups (with Jessi or Kari) is infectious, and adds to the excitement of each episode.

Other highlights in the set include "Boomerang Bullet," in which Adam and Jamie try to get a single shot to ricochet three times and hit the "shooter," a visual physics test in "Spy Car Escape", and the stomach-churning "Hidden Nasties", which has Team B trying to skip a car across a lake Cannonball Run III-style. Less successful segments find Team B trying to fling a "body" with a tree (although seeing an articulated action-figure dummy hitting the ground in slow motion is unexpectedly glorious), and "Antacid Jail Break," which is great in conception but fails to provide much of a payoff. Fans of the show may also be interested to know that "Soda Cup Killer" contains the infamous incident where Tory smashes his knee on the inside of a windowsill -- not everyday that "Mythbusters" gets bloody.

Note: Okay, this might not be a big deal to people, but it did catch my attention, so I figure it's worth mentioning. In the second-to-last episode, "Spy Car Escape," Adam uses the phrase "fagging around on this course" to describe a sequence in which he's being "chased" by Jamie and a stunt driver in another car. There is some possibiltiy that he means "tired," which seems to be a British definition, but that seems like a stretch. If he doesn't mean "tired," it seems like a bizarrely un-PC and insulting phrase to use. Although I like the show, there's no denying that line left a bad taste in my mouth as I watched the rest of "Spy Car Escape" and the final episode in the set.

The DVD
Housed in a transparent plastic two-disc Amaray case, "Mythbusters": Collection 7 isn't fancy, but it gets the job done, and with less clutter than some of the previous "Mythbusters" collections. The front cover is a photo of Adam and Jamie (with a little visual gag), and the back cover shows Kari, Grant, and Tory, with a list of the episodes underneath. The reverse side of the cover art showing through on the inside of the case features short written summaries of each episode, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
"Mythbusters": Collection 7 is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen that illustrates the limits of the source material. Shot on what looks like consumer-grade digital cameras, close inspection of the image reveals aliasing, while a more general study will find a few obvious contrast and color quirks (like Jamie's white shirt, which takes on a bit of a glow in bright lighting). For some reason, the jagged edges caught my eye much more frequently on Disc 2 than they did on Disc 2, with the forest-heavy portions of "Boomerang Bullet" ranking the absolute worst. The DVD turns a forest full of tiny branches and dead leaves into a sea of noise, and in this episode, compression artifacts are also visible, particularly on Tory's shirt. Even the color seems to suffer. For the most part, the image looks about as good as the source will probably allow...(?)...but some of these issues are really quite distracting. Dolby Digital 2.0 audio doesn't sound like it has any DVD-related issues, but it's a touch flat, conveying the noise of some of the experiments without much aural finesse or immersiveness. Still, the sound is basically the same story as the picture: if you like watching it on television, this shouldn't be any different. English subtitles are provided.

The Extras
None. Trailers for Discovery Channel programs "Alaska: The Edge of Life", and "The Ultimate Guide: Dolphins" play before the menu on Disc 1.

Conclusion
On one hand, some sort of special features would probably be nice (perhaps maybe a couple of vintage clips referenced in the episodes -- the scene of Adam falling off a treadmill is shown in more than one episode included here), but it's a minor nitpick. Fans of "Mythbusters" will probably be pleased as punch with the episodes themselves, and there are definitely more hits here than misses. Recommended.



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