Mythbusters has been one of the longest-running and most popular shows in the history of the Discovery Channel, and it’s easy to see why. Hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman defined the show with their trademark wit and on-screen chemistry, even as they threw themselves off the tops of buildings, drove like maniacs, and subjected themselves to all manners of pain and humiliation (frequently in slow motion). But this wasn’t Jackass — this was science.
The show was conceived by Australian writer/producer Peter Rees, who came to Discovery nearly 15 years ago with a pitch he called “Tall Tales or True.” Rees and the executives at Discovery developed that pitch into the show we all know today, and it premiered on January 23, 2003. Now, after 13 years on the air, Mythbusters is coming to an end. With the March 5 series finale quickly drawing near, let’s talk about why we’re gonna miss it when it’s gone!
It Taught Viewers to Think Critically
Mythbusters might’ve thrived on a steady diet of gross experiments and spectacular explosions, but it was the intention behind all the stunts that gave the show its backbone. What was that intention? To test our reality and our preconceived notions of it in a fun and novel way, pursuing the truth with tenacity and optimism. It taught viewers to think problems out step by step, breaking them down into more manageable pieces. With their tried-and-true methods and positive philosophy, the Mythbusters defined a smart new standard for popular science and educational entertainment.
It Taught Viewers to Never Give Up
When an experiment failed, the Mythbusters and their trusty build team hardly ever threw in the towel until they got it working. Regardless of the eventual result of the experiment, they tried and tried to get every piece of the puzzle smoothly in place. Sometimes it took hours of troubleshooting. Sometimes it took days of planning an entirely different approach. Even after all that, the show would often revisit myths that the viewers wanted re-tested, sometimes to drastically different results.
But even when myths were busted, the show wasn’t going to quit there — they had to duplicate the original intended result of the myth. This was often one of the most suspenseful and educational parts of the show, because it provided viewers with a look at what it really takes to achieve huge chemical reactions and catastrophic machinery failures.
It Taught Viewers the Value of Blue Collar Skills
Welding. Sewing. Carpentry. Upholstery. Operating heavy machinery. Vehicle maintenance. Electrical engineering. Cooking. These are just a few of the skills it takes to be a true Mythbuster, and they’re skills you can go learn at technical or vocational schools. Even though Adam and Jamie are TV stars, the show always made an effort to show them working their butts off. They showed up early to test sites, performing hours of strenuous preparation in the cold, in the dark, and in the rain. They weren’t just talking heads who showed up to flick the kaboom switch.
In the show’s middle years, design and fabrication were often shown briefly in montages so the show could focus on results and cast antics. But after cast members Kari Byron, Tori Belleci, and Grant Imahara left, the show re-focused on building and the actual hands-on process of making the experiments work. While Byron, Belleci, and Imahara are sorely missed, the change was ultimately for the better, and it allowed Mythbusters‘ final seasons to rank among the show’s best.
The Tension Between Adam and Jamie
One of the biggest sources of conflict on Mythbusters was the fact that Adam and Jamie often didn’t get along. They never had the kind of chest-pounding macho bro-downs we saw in other male-centric reality shows. Instead, the disagreements between the hosts were usually a clash of philosophies and methods. Their conflict exposed a working relationship that might’ve been a lot less jovial when the cameras weren’t rolling.
In the later years of the show, Adam and Jamie started to become a lot more candid about the nature of their relationship, and it led to quite a bit of online chatter from fans. Did the hosts hate each other’s guts? In a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Adam revealed the truth:
“It is true that we’re not friends . . . We disagree about the small details every single day—on almost on every single detail. But we don’t really disagree about the big stuff . . . That means, ultimately, the conflict between us is relatively minor. And not only is it minor, but when someone is always checking and challenging your work, it brings an integrity to the work when you’re going to have to defend the way you want to do something.”
There are valuable lessons to be learned from Adam and Jamie’s commitment to making the show work for all these years. Frankly, it speaks well of their work ethic when we see that drive for constant improvement in their craft. It teaches us that working with the right people doesn’t always mean they’ll be your friends.
Even with the show ending, Adam and Jamie are still committed to working together. They both own part of Tested.com, which they call their home on the web. They will also act as executive producers for a new drama on CBS, inspired by their time in the effects industry.