Mythbusters Review: Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman Go Quirky Once Again to Test the Science of the A-Team
The M-Team test the science of the A-Team, MythBusters style.by Alan Eggleston / January 25, 2015
Adam Savage has a lot of quirky interests, and Jamie Hyneman puts up with them. Thus we see MythBusters specials on The Simpsons (the season premiere episode), the Raiders of the Lost Ark (last weekend’s episode), and the A-Team (this week).
Jamie always seems a distant second to Adam’s enthusiasm for the costumes and playing around with these recent myth-bustings. In terms of this week’s A-Team takeoff (titled “M-Team”) says Jamie, “It’s a TV show, you know? They blow crap up and mess around. A lot of it didn’t make any sense but I’m fine with the A-Team.” On the other hand, Jamie did dress up as one of the A-Team characters for the opening sequence this time.
So who runs this show, anyway, I ask with a lopsided grin.
Now in its 13th season, MythBusters has tested hundreds of myths: Over 769 by their last count, so maybe they have run out of everyday myths to test. That leaves the quirky. They have played around with MacGyver mythology before – what’s next, Vulcan mind-melds and Imperial death stars? (Here are the MythBusters stats, when last updated is unknown.)
Of course, it is Adam’s lighthearted enthusiasm that makes MythBusters fun. And it’s Jamie’s sensibility that keeps MythBusters on track.
In this week’s quirky episode, Adam and Jamie tested the essence of some of the A-Team’s stranger assumptions. (The A-Team aired from 1983 to 1987 on NBC.)
One was to find out if you can build a working cannon from material in an abandoned lumber yard, such as building a cannon out of a log.
Another myth was to test whether setting an explosion in a sewer can neutralize the villains without seriously injuring the good guys and bystanders.
The MythBusters Builds and Calls
There were the usual “builds.”
Impromtu Cannon: Adam drilled into a large log to create the bore for the cannon. (What’s a “bore”? Here is a glossary of cannon terms with an illustration.) Then Jamie built a rig with propane to blow sticks of lumber out of the cannon. Replicating what they saw on the A-Team clip was a total bust, even adding oxygen to boost the propane.
So Adam and Jamie went “off-script” to ramp it up. They replicated the time limit from the A-Team clip, giving themselves one hour to improvise with what they found in their own abandoned lumber yard: a trailer wheel, a torque wrench, and a load of lumber to build what amounted to an aimable pitching machine on a fork lift. Building their rig by the seat of their pants worked like a charm, creating a bad-guy head splitter shooting off 2-by-4’s 60 feet at 60 mph in 1 minute and 5 seconds (the A-Team clip did it in 1 minute and 10 seconds!)
Their call: Original clip busted but their build, totally awesome.
Sewer Explosion: Then there was the sewer set up. First, the “control”: They rigged nine sticks of nitroglycerine-based dynamite to ignite directly below a car with Buster (the fan-favorite test dummy) in the driver’s seat strapped with sensors. The results were devastating to both the car and Buster – and a set of half-inch plywood human “analogs.” Buster survived but with his legs blown off, the the car was a mess, and the bystanders were dead.
That left it to Jamie and Adam to simulate a realistic sewer and then suspend the nine sticks of nitroglycerine-based dynamite 1 mm below the manhole and stage the car with Buster right above it and once again position the human analogs nearby. BOOM! The car was damaged, but Buster survived, as did the human analogs.
Their call: Original clip plausible and the A-Team’s 1980’s science, validated.
The Bigger MythBusters Question
But are these really “myth” testing or just testing the reality of moviemaking? What exactly is a myth on MythBusters? And does it matter?
My sense is, it doesn’t really matter to true fans of the show.
I am a fan of the show. There are things I like and things that I don’t like, but I stick with it all because I like Adam and Jamie, and I like the science and watching the process. I like it when things go wrong and I like it when things go exactly as planned. I especially like it when Adam and Jamie are surprised by a result. As a viewer, I can feel the pain of disappointment or weariness when an experiment has taken too long to get a result. And I feel the exhilaration of a build done perfectly. Those things all happened in this episode.
In the end, whether a “myth” (or some sense of reality) is confirmed or busted or is simply plausible doesn’t matter as much as that it was tested and explored and we got to observe. If we got to see that kind of action in real science, we might all enjoy actual science a lot more.
Maybe that’s what makes the quirkier episodes of MythBusters more challenging for me personally – they’re more about Adam’s fascination with the movie or TV show. But I’ll watch all the same. Because while Adam is getting to play out his childhood fantasies of acting out his favorite TV series (he was 16 when A-Team aired), at least Jamie is keeping them real with science (he was 27 at that same time).
Quirky or not, the MythBusters A-Team Special was all of that.