MythBusters is back, only this time it’s MythBusters Jr., which features six super-smart “makers” under the age of 16 who help host Adam Savage break down common myths. Savage was a host of MythBusters on Discovery Channel for 14 seasons. Besides hosting, he’s executive producer of the new series, which premieres on Science Channel Wednesday, Jan. 2. Science is on board for 10 episodes.
Savage spoke with Multichannel News about the new show, his phone call with Discovery Inc. CEO David Zaslav and how his behavior changed with kids on the set.
MCN: The old axiom in Hollywood about not working with kids or animals — I guess you just didn’t pay that much attention.
Adam Savage: This season, we worked with both kids and animals! I was thinking of a slightly different Hollywood myth about kids when we started production on Jr., which was that the entertainment industry isn’t well-known for how it treats kids. We were really, really clear that we wanted to build a set that was loving, so the kids would feel like they were really being themselves on camera. It’s not an easy thing to do.
MCN: Any worry that kids just don’t watch much TV as we know it?
AS: Your question has an assumption that we’ve made a kids’ show, and we really tried to not make a kids’ show. We’re not aiming for a specific audience. This is a narrative about people trying to satisfy their curiosity with some rigor and funny methodologies. Yes, the television audience is decreasing every day. That’s a total reality. As a storyteller, I’m spread out on both the web and on television. But we’re not really thinking about that when we put the show together. We’re making stuff for the Science Channel and hoping that people love it as much as we loved making it.
MCN: Where did the idea come from?
AS: I was pretty convinced that I was done making MythBusters. We wrapped in early 2016 after 13 years. We didn’t have an offseason when making the show — we shot full-time for 13 solid years. It felt like it would be nice to hang up the spurs. And then David Zaslav called me in the middle of 2017. David and I are friendly, but we don’t talk frequently. He says, “I want you think about this spinoff that just came across my desk — I’m excited about it.” I was totally ready to say no. I had turned down participating in MythBusters: The Search and the MythBusters reboot. But when he said MythBusters Jr., I instantly saw the possibility.
There are two shows that kind of changed my life the past few years: The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef Junior. Both are so deeply outside the normal mold of reality television. They celebrate skill and collaboration. When David said MythBusters Jr., I saw that possibility. Then I saw the demo reels, and … I thought all six of those kids came across really great. They looked like America, they looked like the world to me.
MCN: Tell me about the duct tape parachute you guys make.
AS: So many aspects of Jr. encompass things I didn’t think I’d see again. Jamie [MythBusters co-host Hyneman] and I labored to find a duct tape episode for our final season, and that ended up being duct tape trebuchet, which was really fun. We really considered that we’d done everything possible with duct tape. And then my producer, Jax Marker, came up one day and said, what about duct tape parachute? I was so annoyed — I couldn’t believe we hadn’t considered this before! The moment she said that, we were going to make a duct tape parachute episode.
MCN: How is the dynamic different on the set of MythBusters Jr.?
AS: When cameras aren’t on me, I curse like a sailor. Often as I’m warming up for camera, I’ll tell the filthiest stories to the crew to get everyone relaxed. I couldn’t do any of that! I thought I was doing really good, but the kids told me I was not very good at not cursing.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.