Wednesday, September 2, 2015

We're what you call experts

Recently i have watched episodes of Mythbusters, many episodes. One of the first was the one on the supposed moon landing hoax. Great, every one of the objections they disproved. They set up scale models, and followed scientific method, thereby removing all wind from the sails of one group of conspiracy nuts.

They have a number of quoted lines viewers recognise, and some terms that ought to be. Most of the cast members had worked on film sets creating things to be filmed. This while presenting a semi-scripted, reality, science show intersects. 'Hollywood physics' or 'movie physics' they rightly contrast to actual physics. Some great stunts are filmed for entertainment, but are they possible naturally? Well, sometimes. 'Hollywood physics' wants to look good, not to be repeatable, or to duplicate reality. One example is the fireball of some explosions presented in film. Actual explosions rarely have a dramatic fireball, so film makers add gasoline.

Jamie Hyneman is the lead presenter, and Adam Savage his partner. Jamie is taciturn and grumpy, Adam is kinetic and loquacious. Then there has usually been a junior team of mythbusters. Adam has made himself the voice, and Jamie the image. Jamie has become 'the Walrus', and the 'wild Hyneman' often while Adam uses the voice of David Attenborough. Jamie's humour is very understated, and very matter of fact, and with a bit of mean spirit.

Watching the episodes, it becomes easy to like all the cast. There are instances where they fail you. And i wonder how much of that was the cause of Peter Rees, the show's creator and boss for the early years. He wanted to create drama by pissing in the ears of Jamie and Adam with deceitful talk engineered to antagonise each.

The worst thing was tricking Adam to see him react to a very strong electrical shock in the Baghdad battery/Ark of the Covenant episode. [an aside--I used to work in situations where one could get a surprise electrical shock--a most unpleasant experience whenever it occurred. Anyone  setting someone up for it is an evil shit of a person.] Savage has talked about this, and he put the complete onus on the producer [Rees presumably]. Soon thereafter, Scottie Chapman of the junior team left the programme.
Now this gets dodgy. Savage asks whether the replica of the ark is electrified. He is lied to. After the shock Kari Byron asks him, "Do you feel God?".  Some people found this funny, others sacrilegious, and some really bitchy. Was that line scripted? Both do not believe in God. Savage advocates for scepticism and reason to other audiences. Yeah, snarky question.

That was episode 29, in episode 26 Scottie and Kari are building a masonry wall. Adam comes to tell them they are not working fast enough. The camera catches them working, and doing a good job. Now, such a situation happens in real work all the time. Bosses/foremen/owners do this when checking up on workers in order to find them guilty of being goof-offs, and when they cannot, then complain of the pace. The two look at Adam dumbfounded and dispirited, exactly like reality. Now, was this before or after the electrocution? Was Adam scripted, or being a jerk? Their reaction sure looked genuine, and Adam in the series is not filmed like this. A very good show can have some horrid moments.

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