Interview: Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters talk about Season 8

Hey!

When the Discovery Channel first aired the first season of Mythbusters back in 2003, I wonder if they knew what a huge phenomenon the series would be. Starring Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, the dynamic duo has done everything from test to see if a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building would kill someone to exploding dang near everything they can get their hands on.

Now in their eighth season, Adam and Jamie have taken a bit of time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions…

How many myths are submitted during a particular year and how many do you get to test? What are the top three criteria you use when deciding whether or not to use a particular myth? What is your favorite myth of the new season?

Jamie: The number of myths that we come across in a year varies – there are usually 60 or 70 in a list that are ahead of what we are doing at present. We look for stories that require hands on physical activity or builds – we can’t just talk about something – and we look for things that we can have fun with are funny. We also like things that are unusual or have unexpected qualities to them. The new season has a story that involves pulling a tablecloth out from under a large banquet table full of settings without breaking anything. That was really fun and involved a lot of broken dishes and a really fast motorcycle.

Adam: We test, on average, about 20-24 myths per year. Anything where we can find some testable hypothesis is something we’ll tackle. I don’t have a favorite, but building a wooden, repeating arrow machine gun from 2000 year old designs was pretty cool.

Elephant and Mouse (Clipart.com)What has been the surprising myth you’ve tested (whether plausible, busted, or confirmed) in eight seasons?

Jamie: Are elephants afraid of mice. Turns out, they are! At least the ones we tested.

Given all of the skills and talents you bring to the fore during each episode, what’s your favorite skill to put into use?

Jamie: I think for both of us, there is no favorite skill, but our favorite thing about the show is the fact that so many different skills are required and used. We go from machining or welding something to sewing. We sculpt things, but do plumbing and carpentry, or set up experiments to find out if yawning is contagious. And oddly enough, we see it as all the same; using your mind and body to figure something out, to make something happen.

Adam: My brain. Honestly. The problem solving before we do any building is the most exciting part of doing this show and it’s what keeps it interesting after 8 years.

How long (on average) does it take to do the research and transform it into a final episode ready for airing? What’s the toughest part of filming any given episode?

Jamie: Each of the shows we do is unique, and so is the research. It took 2 years to do the behind the scenes research and setup for the lead balloon story. Others only take a day or so. Shooting the show, once all the preparations are made, takes on average a week to 10 days.

Adam: It can take anything from 1 week to a couple of years! It took 2 years to find a company that could make lead foil thin enough to be made into a balloon. Sometimes we need to blow something up last minute and we’ll call our guy at the bomb range and drive right over.

Obviously safety is incredibly important for you, your crew, and any bystanders while filming. What safety protocols are in place when you shoot an episode? Have there been any injuries in your eight seasons?

Jamie: We finally hired a safety oversight company to run through everything we are going to do before we start to do it. They serve the same function for Jackass or Fear Factor. But ultimately we are our best safety oversight, and there are things we know now that no one else does about how to handle the kinds of situations we face. We treat it all kind of like a bomb squad treats a bomb. You wear all the safety gear you can, you work very carefully, and treat everything like something really, really bad can happen.

There have been injuries – but mostly cuts, abrasions, the occasional broken finger or nose, some blown eardrums. No loss of vision or brain damage so far, and no serious permanent damage.

Mythbusters - Jamie & AdamAdam: Jamie and I have both sustained a couple dozen stitches each, but those are just scratches. The worst injury is a couple of broken fingers suffered by the crew moving safety equipment. No lie.

How difficult is it to find places to destroy things during your experiments?

Jamie: Over the years we have found appropriate places for this, and we go to them a lot. Places with lots of open space, no neighbors or traffic nearby, and local law enforcement that is OK with us doing what we do.

Adam: Now that the show’s been on so long, this isn’t the tough job it used to be. Several people have offered us their houses to destroy!

Are there any myths that you’d like to investigate but haven’t been able to do yet?

Jamie: We usually find ways to do what we need to do somehow. We would love to go to the moon to prove the US has been there before. We can’t do that yet, so we did simulations of footage and gravity, etc., to replicate what was recorded. So we just do the best we can. There are things to do with nuclear explosions we would like to test, but of course can’t. Sometimes the scale of an experiment is just outside our reach, and a small scale version just won’t do.

Adam: We have a list that’s about 120 myths big of good stuff we haven’t gotten to yet.

I want to thank Adam & Jamie for answering my questions and wish them the best of luck with season eight and beyond of Mythbusters!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Don’t forget to watch Mythbusters every Wednesday night on the Discovery Channel!

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DVD Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Hey guys!

Greek mythology has been around since the ancient Greeks began telling the tales around 1000 BC. Those myths have worked their way into many different forms of media since then, from paintings and Greek literature to movies, television, books, and even comic books in the modern age. So why would I be surprised to learn that it was being repurposed once again in the form of some young adult fiction?

Rick Riordan, a teacher in California with a background in English and History, was well placed to take the sometimes dry stories from the Ancient Greeks and make them relevant in today’s world. He created a hero, Percy Jackson, a kid with dyslexia who was unknowingly a demigod – the child of Poseidon and a mortal woman. And Percy’s world took flight in a series of five books published from 2005 to 2009 – The Lightning Thief through to The Last Olympian. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood caught on to one of the series trying to fill the void left behind by the impending end of the Harry Potter movie series.

I honestly hadn’t heard of the book series before I saw the first trailer for Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief a few months before the movie released. But I loved the idea of bringing Greek myths back into the limelight in a way that kids could latch on and learn while being entertained. I loved learning about mythology as a kid and want to see my own kids gain an appreciation for those ancient stories as they grow up today. Why not spin the Greek gods and goddesses into an entertaining tale for today’s youth? My eldest daughter devoured Rick Riordan’s books and loved every minute of them. So I knew without consulting the Oracle that seeing the movie wasn’t far behind.

Near the beginning of the film, we find young Percy (Logan Lerman) sitting at the bottom of a pool… for 7 minutes! Though he says it’s the only place he feels he can think, there’s obviously more to this kid than we meets the eye. His pal Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is there watching the clock and making sure nothing happens to Percy. Both of them go to a regular high school like everybody else, at least until a substitute teacher turns into a harpy while on a tour of the Greek exhibit at the museum. From that point on, your average high school experience kind of flies out the window with the fury.

From then on in the film, Percy and Grover are on the run to or from something. We meet Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), a wheelchair-bound teacher at their school who turns out to be the centaur Chiron. We see Percy’s dad, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and Zeus (Sean Bean) discussing an impending war between the gods. We meet Hades (Steve Coogan) and his unhappy wife Persephone (Rosario Dawson). And we meet Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena and fierce warrior woman ready to prove herself in the outside world.

Somehow the supernatural realm Percy didn’t know existed seems to think that he stole Zeus’s lightning bolt from Mount Olympus. But he didn’t steal it and nobody seems to care. Annabeth, Percy and Grover try to figure out what’s going on around them.

The whole movie is a roller coaster ride from beginning to end as Percy learns who he is and tries to save his mother Sally (Catherine Keener) from Hades’ clutches. Hades wants the bolt so he can challenge Zeus to become king of the gods. And Zeus just wants the bolt back before the Summer Solstice or a war will start among the gods and the Earth will suffer.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on. The three actors at the center of the story – Lerman, Jackson, and Daddario – are thrust into the limelight in much the same way as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson were when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit movie screens in 2001. And I think they did a great job with the roles, presenting kids with good role models who learn and grow throughout the adventure.

Overall, I thought the movie was fun and showed a lot of promise for sequels based on the rest of the Riordan series. If nothing else, it brought a number of wonderful Greek myths back into the foreground of school kids around the country. Hopefully they’ll see these ancient stories as gifts from the past and not simply homework from now on. With worldwide box office totals of greater than $225 million (according to BoxOfficeMojo.com and a budget of $95 million, hopefully the producers and studio will see their way to filming some sequels.

Also included on the DVD are a number of extras.

“The Book Comes to Life” presents a great documentary feature on the making of the film and how Riordan’s characters came to be on the big screen. He seems like he’s taking it all in stride and all of the actors, the director (Chris Columbus), and crew seemed to understand that they were striving for that Harry Potter moment when the world woke up to see Percy’s adventures in the film.

The “Discover Your Powers Quiz” seemed a bit hokey to me and even to my two daughters. They know the difference between reality and the world of fiction, and somehow the presentation seemed very last minute and cheesy with the little bit of announcement of your “powers”.

But the five Extended and Deleted Scenes were very interesting, especially the scene with Grover talking to Percy in the pickup truck about how he failed Zeus’ daughter. That should have made it into the movie in my opinion, as it really bolstered my opinion of why Grover seemed so desperate to help Percy survive his adventure.

So overall, if you like Greek myths or have read the Percy Jackson series from Rick Riordan, I think you’ll probably like Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. As the opening chapter of Percy’s journey through Riordan’s world, I think they did great at whetting our appetite for more. Bring on the next movie!

This article originally appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick Percy up when the movie releases this week or pick up the books!

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