“Do you miss me yet?” MYTHBUSTERS fans said goodbye to their favorite science reality TV show back in March 2016, and as the Science Channel on cable TV and satellite picked up the franchise from the Discovery Channel, they could sense the demand to keep the fun going. So they came up with a way to do that.
The show’s demise wasn’t that there weren’t plenty of myths to bust and science to test. Fans loved the basis behind the series. But when the show’s producers eliminated three of its most likable presenters (Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara), they lost a big chunk of their fan base. Although fans still loved main hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the show just wasn’t the same without the Kari, Tory, and Grant. And when the series did a revamp with just Adam and Jamie, amped up with new graphics and a heftier focus on the builds and the science, it just wasn’t the same good ol’ MYTHBUSTERS. And so, the program fell away the way most successful series peter out in the end.
To try to bring back the MYTHBUSTERS shine, Science Channel came up with MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH, a competition to find the next generation of hosts. Tonight is the finale episode.
THE SEARCH uses the same format as most reality TV competitions. Several people show up to be the final winner (in this case, winners), accomplishing various goals to make it through to the next round. At the end of each episode one contestant is usually (although not always) eliminated. After seven episodes, THE SEARCH has gone from ten competitors down to four. Remaining tonight are Martin Pepper, Jonathan Lung, Brian Louden, and Tamara Robertson, after the elimination of Tracy Fanara, Jason Kerestes, Sarah Petkus, Ben Nowack, Chris Hackett, and Allen Pan. Eliminations often occurred because individuals simply didn’t have build skills, or because they didn’t contribute to the team effort, or their contribution led to the team fail. In one instance, the individual, as was often the case, went off to do his own thing, leaving the team to manage the rest of the build on their own.
Each episode featured a team build and an individual effort, looking for build skills, science smarts, and on-camera charisma. They looked at such myths and science tests as improvising a weapon from junk in a junk yard, building an ejector seat in a spy car, painting walls with explosives, and shooting blind. Thus, much of their tests were rehashes of old MYTHBUSTERS themes. In tonight’s finale, they will hearken back to water heaters and duct tape to launch Buster on heated-water power and to try to stay afloat on taped up floats. How creative…
I think what irks me most is the lack of originality in the myths the producers choose to test. What I have liked the best has been watching the contestants try to think through the problems and build solutions. The problem is, the show hasn’t really had the time to explore as much of the science as they have to show the team dynamics and the misfires that have led to people being dismissed from the competition. Well, this is a reality contest show after all.
THE SEARCH’s host is Kyle Hill, a podcaster and MYTHBUSTERS superfan. While he makes an amiable host, he hardly adds to the science or the builds, although he is expected to work with each episode’s special guest and the crew to decide who gets the week’s “coveted MVP trophy” for work well done and who gets booted from the competition. And I wonder if he will move on to the new show, if a new show survives this competition. He, at least, has some personality.
As I said, tonight is the finale, which promos say “goes out with a bang.” I don’t know. Each week that I have watched, I am left feeling a bit meh. Here’s the problem. MYTHBUSTERS started out with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who though they weren’t superstars or experienced showmen at the time, had something special that caught the audience’s attention. Adam’s enthusiasm and good humor, Jamie’s curmudgeon stoicism yet devotion to science and common sense made a great team. Then they added the build team of Kari, Tory, and Grant, soon giving them their own focus on the show. They had a great camaraderie, and they were fun to watch. Everyone was fun to watch. This new group — not so much.
The problem as I see it is, these new competitors are definitely MYTHBUSTERS fans. They know science, they have build skills, but they lack charisma. And they have no camaraderie. That they can build on, of course. But none of them “sparkle” on camera like the originals did. None of them shows the passion for science and process that the originals had. They just show the geekiness of playing at MYTHBUSTERS. As Allen Pan said after being eliminated from the competition, “This has been the best summer camp ever.” But summer camp doesn’t lead to a job.
So the question for viewers is, “Do you miss me yet” enough to watch whoever wins this competition, week after week, should MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH become MYTHBUSTERS the renewed series? And will the producers be original enough to ramp up the myths and science to make the show interesting enough to watch? For some, this final episode just may be their last MYTHBUSTERS.
Watch the MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH finale tonight (February 25) at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT), repeated at midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT) on the Science Channel. According to their Twitter account, “We will be announcing the winner(s) live on air…”