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Mythbusters: Collection 11
The team at Mythbusters just recently celebrated their 12 years on the air at the Discovery Channel, not counting the initial three-episode run that ignited their rocket like popularity. What once started out as a generally humble "can we do it?" show hosted by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage eventually got so large that a B-team or build team as they became to be known, was hired to tackle the more "mundane" myths. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Mythbusters team has provided countless hours of subtle scientific education, cleverly disguised as entertainment. When I look back at my time reviewing for the site, I'm actually shocked, given my background in the sciences, that I haven't reviewed one of their releases; well, better late than never, along comes "Mythbusters: Collection 11" for me to consume and analyze.
Not having followed the DVD releases, "Collection 11" appears to be approximately half the episodes of the 2011-2012 season coupled with two specials that aired the same year. Why Discovery isn't opting for full season releases escapes me, but nevertheless, are these 10 episodes worth your time? Having not watched the show as a regular viewer in seven years or so, it was nice to see some things had not changed: the format is consistent, its still the same familiar crew, and the myths range from the outlandish on paper to entirely plausible to begin. What has changed, and not always for the better is the production value. What once had a nice DIY/can do attitude has been entirely replaced with slick post-production work and sometimes-meandering intros. "Mythbusters" has definitely lost its sense of high-paced, on-the-fly thinking and the disparity between the myths the build team tackles and what Jamie and Adam are left to research is large. In general, the build team gets a lot of gimmicky filler, whereas Jamie and Adam get the big engineering projects; given the backgrounds of everyone involved, it all makes sense, but the loss of the show's roots, where maybe just one or two myths (for the record, moth episodes here examined one or two myths but often the build team's one myth was broken into smaller segments) were examined by Jamie and Adam are long gone.
"Mythbusters" remains entertaining in no uncertain terms, but the amount I feel I actually learned or what I felt was conveyed to the audience in practical knowledge has diminished. There's a lot of self-hype involved and the mundane prep steps that initially drew me to the series are gone, allowing only for the most "whiz bang" moments to make the final cut. There's still much to enjoy with this collection of recent episodes: film fans will find the episode focused on the flying guillotine entertaining, even if only one created device even begins to feel plausible, and despite the risk of being hackneyed, duct tape makes its way to the limelight in the duct tape plane episode.
I almost feel certain if I were to return to the series from day one and make my way through every episode, I'd see a lot of repeated concepts, but I can't say for certainty apart from specific themes that anything here has been riffed on before. Still, I couldn't shake the lingering feeling that "Mythbusters" just doesn't feel fresh anymore. I might not be alone, given the recent development that the build team would be leaving the show after 2014. Maybe just maybe, despite the absence of these engaging personalities, the show will be able to have a short return to its sometimes dry, but always riveting roots, before finally calling it a day.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is speckled by a light amount of digital noise/grain. The image quality is perfectly serviceable for a TV documentary series; I'd argue perhaps better production technology quality, but not necessarily filming standards results in the show still having a slightly rough look; that said, the intro and filler segments do look a lot sharper in terms of clarity and detail than the in-field segments.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is nothing particularly impressive; dialogue/narration dominates any actual live action; even when the experiments get a little out of hand, the audio mix actually makes things feel far more in control.
"Mythbusters: Collection 11" doesn't serve as a substitute for a real complete season release, but does highlight the more recent years of the show well. You can't really call any episode truly boring or disposable, but the initial sense of wonder the show elicited back in 2003-2004, has considerably faded, if not vanished completely. There's still something to be learned, just not as much as there used to be. Recommended.