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Dissecting an episode of ‘Mythbusters’
June 30, 2011 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Dissecting an episode of Mythbusters. Categorizing and graphing the various fillers and recaps and the A and B stories on MeFi’s de facto fave TV show, Thomas Baekdal comes up with a theory as to why you end up watching all the way through.

And did you know the Mythbuthterth showed up at a private event to blast out a pixelated replica of the “Mona Lisa” using 1,100 paintball cannons?
posted by joeclark (123 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
MeFi’s de facto fave TV show

Oh, you're in trouble now. A hundred My Little Pony fans are busy photoshopping cutie marks on to Adam and Jamie.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:50 AM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is what a DVR is for.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:53 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is what PVRs were invented for. Commercial broadcasters need to realise that the more they fill their shows with ad breaks and inane filler, the more people will simply record it and fast-forward through the fluff.
posted by afx237vi at 6:53 AM on June 30, 2011


I only catch Mythbusters during holiday marathons. Because of that, I thought the shows were intentionally drawn out to fill the programming day. I didn't know the regular show was that ad-filled. The ad blocks are repetitive, too. Very irritating.

But now they're on Netflix streaming, so if I'm in a Mythbusters mood, I'll watch them that way.
posted by Anephim at 6:53 AM on June 30, 2011


This is why I drink PBR.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:54 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


But then comes the real shocker. 27% of the time is spent watching advertising.

Why is that shocking to anyone? The standard US tv show is 22 minutes of show and 8 minutes of commercials which is just under 27%.
posted by octothorpe at 6:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Seriously, who watches the commercials these days? If you're watching something like Mythbusters live, not on your DVR fast forwarding through them or not on your MythTV box with the commercials automatically stripped out, you're doing TV wrong. Sorry, but in 2011 if you can't figure out how to bypass the commericals, you deserve to sit through 16mins of filler and ads.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:56 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next on Mythbusters: Mythbusters examines a theory as to why you end up watching Mythbusters all the way through.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:57 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


No, I do not end up watching all the way through, because I do not tolerate this sort of shenanigans. Show me the content all at once with maybe an ad on the side, or get out of my face.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:59 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I watch it for Kari. She's dreamy.
posted by punkfloyd at 7:00 AM on June 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


This is interesting. I like the nifty minute-by-minute breakdown. I have watched the show only a couple of times, and each time I was struck by how little content it seemed to have--how many little video clips were repeated multiple times, how many times they said the same things over and over again. It seemed very stretched to me. I don't know that this is different from any other non-ficiton TV show because I don't watch much of that kind of thing; it did seem like they were asking for an hour or so of my time to give me 20 minutes worth of content, and that's why I haven't watched again.
posted by not that girl at 7:01 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, who watches the commercials these days?

Well, if you've watch all full episodes of Mythbusters w/o commercials, you've seen a "commercial" for the tv show "Storm Chasers," a "commercial" for "The Green Hornet" and a "commercial" for popcorn. Those are off the top of my head.
posted by drezdn at 7:04 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can get all the fun of watching Mythbusters by searching "explosions" on YouTube and watching as many videos as you like.

There, I said it.
posted by spitefulcrow at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I haven't watched Mythbusters in years, mostly because I can't find the channel in the 800+ channels I have nowadays - what are they on, Discovery? I think we *just* got DiscoveryHD added to our block of HD channels, but it's way down at the end, so I rarely make it there when I'm just channel surfing (and honestly, it's rare that I just channel surf these days any way - usually I'm turning on the TV to watch a specific show). Pity, because I used to really like Mythbusters, but it just wasn't gripping enough to keep me looking for it.
posted by antifuse at 7:06 AM on June 30, 2011


seanmpuckett: Show me the content all at once with maybe an ad on the side, or get out of my face.

Please, for the love of god, do not encourage them to put adverts in the actual shows. Because you know they will.
posted by afx237vi at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know that this is different from any other non-ficiton TV show

To be honest, it's a pretty standard formula and Baekdal's "theory" isn't so much a revelation as it is an observation of the routine.
posted by Spatch at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if you're watching something live you just hit the mute button, I'm amazed anyone bothers to advertise on TV at all. We're all irritated by different things though, with me it's bald men who never take off their hats.
posted by joannemullen at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is about how most hour long shows are structured, isn't it? Certainly the ad content is about average - an hour long show is about 42-43 minutes - and I think of the rough ad structure as about the same as most things. The only thing different about Mythbusters and other entertainment documentary shows is that you've got a bit more time stuck on the logo. Even drama shows have some measure of 'repeat' in them when they come back from a commercial break.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2011


Thomas Baekdal comes up with a theory as to why you end up watching all the way through

If the "theory" is not based on the viewers (me/us) being huge nerds, then I'm going to doubt it's scientific integrity.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:10 AM on June 30, 2011


I have to say that that thing where the go "commercials-tiny bit of show-commercials" (which he talks about here in the first part of the show, noting that "this period of commercial breaks is actually 10 minutes long") is the reason I don't watch network television live anymore.

This little trick is relatively new, and it has become pervasive. The two minutes of "show" between the two 5 minute blocks of commercials is usually pure filler -- in reality TV shows like Top Chef and Project Runway which (I'm hideously embarrassed to say) I actually like, its usually B roll of the contestants bad mouthing each other. You can skip it right along with the commercials on your DVR and miss nothing (to the extent there is otherwise anything to miss).

If not for this particular trick, there are shows (including the aforementioned reality garbage) I would watch live -- commercials and all. But I won't sit through 12 minutes of commercials and filler in the middle of the show. It makes me incandescent with rage and, when I forget about it and watch live network TV for some reason, I inevitably end up yelling at Mrs. Bellman about how totally shitty network TV is, at which point she justifiably looks at me like I'm crazy and asks what she's supposed to do about it. It's not worth it.
posted by The Bellman at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


bald men who never take off their hats.

Two words: sun burn* (or two more: skin cancer!)

*Yes, I know that's one word.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:13 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mythbusters should be a 5 minute episodic Mr. Wizard- style science show. Instead they milk those 5 interesting minutes into 55 minutes of ads and small talk. Boring.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


That little pie chart shows exactly why a 60 minute block of television "content" takes me only 30 minutes to watch.
posted by Revvy at 7:19 AM on June 30, 2011


Seriously, who watches the commercials these days?

Half of my MythBusters TV experiences are watching it in regular definition on my parents' CRT in the basement of their house on Boxing Day while slightly hungover, while my Dad yells at me to bring his Hotmail account up for him (on account that Hotmail isn't working for him) so he can check the moose hunting photos his buddy sent him a month ago.

This is useful for me.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's so terrible that television shows sell advertising in order to help cover their production costs! Damn those capitalists! Damn them straight to hell!
posted by Apoch at 7:22 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


He should do the same analysis for Biggest Loser - holy HELL does that show ever waste time to fill up an hour. Back when my wife and I could actually be bothered to watch this trash, we ended up watching the first 10 minutes or so, maybe one of the challenges, and then the weigh-in. That show EASILY has a one minute recap after each commercial break. It was so painful.
posted by antifuse at 7:23 AM on June 30, 2011


Downside to watching the show in Japan: I'm at least two seasons behind.

Upside: cable companies haven't managed to get enough ads, so most commercial breaks are just segues to the next bit, then they tack on some annoying informercial at the end of the show, or as I like to think of it, "what's on the movie channel?" time.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:24 AM on June 30, 2011


Nthing the observation that the ads are par for the course now. But I was intrigued he broke out what section of the show is devoted to "repetition", because that's something I've noticed happening more and more often that's been kind of getting on my nerves:

Narrator: Meanwhile, Grant and Tory were finding out whether they could make a robot do a cartwheel!
(Shot of Grant successfully making a robot do a cartwheel as Tory watches, then they jump around gleefully)
Narrator: And then they proved that it's possible to make a robot do a cartwheel!
Tory: Ohmigod, it was awesome! Grant actually got a robot to do a cartwheel!
EmpressCallipygos: STOP TELLING ME ABOUT THE CARTWHEEL! I JUST WATCHED IT HAPPEN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Liquidwolf beat me to it. I've watched, I think, 1.5 episodes. I realize the exigencies of commercial programming make it thus. I just can't tolerate the way they draw it out. I'm surprised that there's extra material online that they couldn't somehow squeeze into the broadcast.
posted by adamrice at 7:25 AM on June 30, 2011


Mythbusters should be a 5 minute episodic Mr. Wizard- style science show.

I've always thought it should a five hour long show of Adam and the build crew (and the other people who probably actually do most of the building) welding and machining stuff. I hate how they always fly through that part of it to get to the explosions. I'd much prefer it if the show was like The New Yankee Workshop only with more metalworking and trips to airplane boneyards.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'd much prefer it if the show was like The New Yankee Workshop only with more metalworking and trips to airplane boneyards.

If the powers-that-be are listening at all, I yearn (YEARN!) for a metalworking version of New Yankee Workshop. I could be wrong, but I think the reason there isn't one is that there just aren't as many people interested in metalworking as there are arm-chair woodworkers.
posted by drezdn at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd much prefer it if the show was like The New Yankee Workshop only with more metalworking and trips to airplane boneyards.

YES. THIS. NORM WOULD BE PROUD.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


MeFi’s de facto fave TV show

No no no. Everyone knows that's Firefly.
posted by londonmark at 7:32 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


rmd1023 : you've got a bit more time stuck on the logo.

This!

I don't understand why shows feel the need to display their crappy splash screen four times per half hour. Do they really need that much filler, that they can't come up with an extra 90 seconds of actual content?

Or has this just gotten worse since the advent of DVRs, perhaps to make it easier to notice the end of the commercial block while skipping ahead?


Apoch : It's so terrible that television shows sell advertising in order to help cover their production costs! Damn those capitalists! Damn them straight to hell!

Cable started out for the explicit purpose of letting you pay up-front for ad-free content. I can't speak for everyone, but the fact that you now get to pay $150+ for the "privilege" of seeing more commercials than we used to have on plain ol' broadcast TV so impressed me that I ditched the whole shebang. If I can't get it on NetFlix or the internet, I don't want it.
posted by pla at 7:32 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Heh. "Mythbuthterth." We say that in our house, too.
posted by cooker girl at 7:32 AM on June 30, 2011


benito.strauss: "MeFi’s de facto fave TV show

Oh, you're in trouble now. A hundred My Little Pony fans are busy photoshopping cutie marks on to Adam and Jamie
"

Naw, Mythbusters already investigated the effects of coffee on Pinkie Pie.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:33 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The numbers presented don't really surprise me, as indicated above, most TV in the US seems to be about 70% program 30% ads and filler, which is why I live and die by the DVR.

I've always assumed Mythbusters uses the explanatory opening to every segment in case someone is tuning in part way through and wants to get caught up, it's a little irritating, but I understand why they do it and again, that's what the the fast-forward button is for. The rest of the program is always worth the wait for me.

What I'm most impressed by is that every week, they've recut a new opening sequence using clips from previous episodes. I don't know why, but I've come to really enjoy the effort put into something that they could have just left the same from week to week.
posted by quin at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2011


Shows like Mythbusters always come across as cheesy because of the way they're put together. Lots of teasers, repeated footage, flashes, noise, and generally silly filler seemingly designed to draw out viewers to the real flash/noise/money shot. I found it entertaining for a few episodes, then tedious, then annoying. And I see the shows on Netflix, without the commercials.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:39 AM on June 30, 2011


So, looking at those charts, I'm forced to ask... Where do I find a program that will defrag my MythBusters?
posted by Chuckles at 7:39 AM on June 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


anybody watch the Mona Lisa video? What is it that makes someone shout 'WHOO!' at the mention of a GPU processor?
posted by Frasermoo at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2011


Piracy has a history of smoothing over the rough edges of video experiences (eg removing unskippable piracy warnings). I wonder if someone could be bothered to go through Mythbusters episodes, unpick them, and stick them back together in a linear form. You could probably get each myth down to about 5 minutes, and release them as individual files.

(or what Chuckles said)
posted by Leon at 7:47 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why shows feel the need to display their crappy splash screen four times per half hour.

Actually, my biggest complaint with SyFy, Discovery, Comedy Central, and a few of the other cable channels isn't the commercial segment splash screens, it's the fucking ever-present brand in the corner that is getting increasingly more obtrusive;

I don't mind something small and discreet showing what channel I'm watching, but when it's space used to advertise for the next show, through the entire show I'm watching? That's way too much. Particularly when it's taking up about an 1/8th of my screen and is bright white letters, regardless of how dark the program (like say on astronomy) I'm watching actually is.

I makes viewing anything I've missed on the first run an irritation endurance trial.

In fact, the only time it goes away is about a second before the commercial breaks, because I imagine that showing an advertisement over another commercial would be enough to make heads explode...
posted by quin at 7:48 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't watch Mythbusters all the way through. I have shit to do. I fast forward to the last 10 minutes to watch shit blow up.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:48 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frasermoo, they originally did the demo at a Nvidia event. So, the people who worked hard on the code and chips and interconnects and so forth?
posted by Xoder at 7:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is it that makes someone shout 'WHOO!' at the mention of a GPU processor?

A bi-weekly paycheck with the word "Nvidia" in the signature line?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frasermoo: "anybody watch the Mona Lisa video? What is it that makes someone shout 'WHOO!' at the mention of a GPU processor?"

For me it's a bunch of pre-demo cocktails. YMMV.
posted by Splunge at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2011


Am I the only one who watches the first 30 seconds to see what the myths are, then fast forwards to the end to see how it works out?

I do the same with most shows -- I watched 8 episodes of Top Gear in like an hour last week.

And sometimes I fast forward to the end of MeFi threads.
posted by miyabo at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2011


1) One part advertising to three parts content is the industry standard in EVERY industry.
2) The repeating of content after commercial breaks is an unfortunate norm of reality shows. Occasionally, old Mythbuster episodes from '03 or '04 will be on when the production values were lower and the episodes were more chaotic. I'm oddly less interested in these than the newer, slicker format. Reality shows do this because it works...
3) ...in small doses. As antifuse mentioned, The Biggest Loser is ridiculous when it comes to this. It's a two-hour show made up of probably 45 minutes of content. That's not to mention the abject product placement in-show.
4) The Mythbusters is still one of the most interesting shows on television. I'd watch even if there were fewer explosions and less Kari.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love these guys and what they do to provide some solid educational content to viewers in a primetime show, but I find the show itself almost unwatchable for these reasons. But I think it's more to do with cable tv companies than the MBs.
posted by carter at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2011


Next up on Mythbusters.. Can you really jump a shark on water-skis?
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:03 AM on June 30, 2011


The repeating of content after commercial breaks is an unfortunate norm of reality shows.

True, but what about the repeating of content after you've already seen that content? That's more a flaw of the narration I've been noticing -- but it seems there's a growing trend of:

Narrator tells you're about to see a thing
Someone does the thing
Narrator tells you you just saw a thing
Someone tells you about the thing you just saw, often using exactly the same words the narrator just used
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 AM on June 30, 2011


This is the reason I download almost all tv shows. Seriously, even using the commercial skip button on my DVR remote is annoying - its good for 30 seconds per press and I'm usually hitting it 10+ times per breaks which often seizes the DVR and gives an error message.

The worst for this "coming up next / heres what you missed" is anything with Gordon Ramsay in it.

Unless the show is coming from HBO and a couple other cable networks, a "30 minute" show will rarely be longer than 24 minutes and "hour" shows run about 45 with real commercials stripped.
posted by jeffmik at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2011


You know, it's great that Adam Savage is a MeFi member and all, and I have no strong feelings about Mythbusters either way, but I think it's approaching idol worship at this point.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Adam Savage, I have a pony request: an entire episode about explosion myths where there is an explosion every 2 minutes at least (commercials excluded). I will watch the shit out of that episode and even sit through the commercials.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2011


This is true for just about all reality shows. (Hint: story arcs aren't just for feature films.) I once worked on a makeover show that featured a yard sale, and the network execs insisted that the audience cared a great deal about how much money was made. Truth to tell--no one cared--the makeover and the reax to that were what mattered.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2011


For me the thing about Mythbusters is that it's perfect Sunday afternoon fare. If I want to lie on the couch and not exactly nap but chill out and let my brain melt to something that's interesting enough that it doesn't piss me off but repetitive enough that I stay relaxed Mythbusters is a great choice. I find it very pleasant to have on. I'm intrigued enough by the projects and possible outcomes that I stay interested but not SO intrigued that I get worked up.

I have also used it teach third graders about the scientific method which was awesome and they got really into (to the point where they asked if they could postpone recess to watch the explosion again).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:14 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Adam Savage, I have a pony request: an entire episode about explosion myths where there is an explosion every 2 minutes at least (commercials excluded). I will watch the shit out of that episode and even sit through the commercials.

Especially if the commercials are all for fireworks.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:16 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who watches the first 30 seconds to see what the myths are, then fast forwards to the end to see how it works out?

Actually, the final results of the myths are really of little interest to me compared to the "how" of the testing. I love seeing the mechanics of how they are going to evaluate the myth, and the throwing of hypothetical popcorn at the TV when I see something that I think they've missed.

It's not uncommon for me to be able to detail the specifics of the way they tested something, but find myself needing to check out a cheat sheet to see what the final outcome actually was.
posted by quin at 8:17 AM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've always assumed Mythbusters uses the explanatory opening to every segment in case someone is tuning in part way through and wants to get caught up,

With the exception of sports, I NEVER watch networks or any channel that is primarily drama, comedy, 'news' magazines (I don't count Frontline, BBC, etc in that). My TV watching is pretty much these shows only:

NY Mets, NY Rangers, NY Jets, Storage Wars, MythBusters, Pawn Stars, Dual Survival, SurvivorMan, Life On The Line, Hoarders, American Pickers (although these guys are starting to seriously get on my nerves) and anything of that kind of ilk.

Leaving sports aside, I can tell you that EVERY OTHER SHOW is about 30% new content that furthers the story line, 30% recaps of what happened before the commercial break, 10% logos and other stupidity and 30% commercials. It's annoying as fuck. I'd rather they do 10 to 15 minutes of show, end it, and then do 15 minutes of commercials which I can ignore and go take a dump or something til the next show.
posted by spicynuts at 8:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, the final results of the myths are really of little interest to me compared to the "how" of the testing.

Especially since the final results are usually something like "ok, none of the scientific testing proved anything so we're just going to blow the shit out of everything so there's something good to put in the previews."

For all its flaws, it's still a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
posted by bondcliff at 8:21 AM on June 30, 2011


You know, guys, it's not like they haven't figured out that we're skipping the commercials. That's why the commercials are in the shows now. Pretty much every USA series, for example, has a deal with a car company whereby the characters actively promote the car in the content of the show.

White Collar is all about the Fords. They'll routinely set talking heads scenes, where Peter and Neal are just talking about something, in the car en route to someplace so there's some sense of movement. And sooner or later the conversation will come around to some feature of the car. Like Neal will scold Peter for yelling at him instead of paying attention to traffic, and Peter will shoot back with "It's a Taurus, it can almost drive itself." There was another one where another agent explained the leafy dashboard display on the Fusion Hybrid, which grows more green vines as you drive more efficiently, after Neal was like, what the hell are those leaves doing there? Another one where somebody surveilling a building surreptitiously watches an approaching bad guy through the rear-view camera.

Burn Notice last season was in love with Fiona's new Hyundai. This is a little more troubling as the show already had a key car in the vintage Dodge Charger Michael inherited from his dad. That car got used less and less and the blue Genesis coupe got more and more screen time - and even gets a voice over at one point in which the camera's making love to the car while Michael explains the qualities spies look for in a car they're planning to chase down bad guys in heavy traffic with.

These are pretty serious product placements - way beyond just having a can of coke on the desk in a scene - but for me at least it's a compromise I don't mind so much because they tend to do a good job of weaving it into the story. The Taurus really does seem like something FBI agents would drive, for example.
posted by Naberius at 8:25 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a shame that Mythbusters seems pretty much out of actual myths and now is focused on whatever inane stunts the viewers send in that might end in a bang.

I will say that I appreciate Kari being about a thousand times more competent now — she was a real drain on early shows.
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on June 30, 2011


Yup, and I saw a very prominent National Instruments logo on Mythbusters a few days ago. (NI makes LabView, a program for designing control systems, which I imagine the Mythbusters use a whole lot.) Geekiest product placement ever!
posted by miyabo at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2011


Of course they are going to start putting ads in the actual shows. As everyone sits here and discusses the various ways they have of ducking what pays for their entertainment, and hoping that the TV people will nicely arrange all the commercials together in a block so we can conveniently skip them, what do you think is going to happen? They don't want you to skip them, that is what pays for the shows. Until they come up with something better....and the something better always ends up coming back to advertising, it seems....commercials pay for content. The more ways you figure out of ducking them, the more ways they will figure out how to show them to you. It comes with the territory.

I actually kind of like commercials if you look at them as constructs and not ads. Lot of cutting-edge stuff - and if you are a storyteller, you can learn a lot (don't laugh) about how to get salient elements across in a short amount of time.

But keep dodging them and TV characters are going to be logo'd and decked out like NASCAR drivers in the future. Because the ads need to hit the eyeballs if they're going to keep footing the bill for your entertainment. That seems an easy enough concept to grasp. Just how long do you think you can get everything for free, otherwise?
posted by umberto at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did somebody say filler?
posted by damo at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


It can only be done on a comedy show, of course, but 30 Rock handles product placement better than any other show out there. Just call attention to it and let me laugh at it, don't insult my intelligence by trying to weave it subtly into the dialogue.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:34 AM on June 30, 2011


I've always hated soap operas but when my son was a baby and I was home taking care of a baby all by myself while terribly sleep deprived and I needed something on the TV in the background just to stay sane I happened to sort of accidentally watch entire episodes of soaps a few times and I realized why soap operas are so brilliantly engineered for the frazzled housewife viewer -- they repeat everything that happens in the plot three times. So if your baby starts crying and you miss something, or you're vacuuming so you can't really hear what anyone is saying, you can pretty much still figure out the plot.

I sort of feel like Mythbusters is made the same way, but targeted primarily at easily distracted young men. It's a show you could watch on a weekend while tending to a BBQ grill on the patio. It's a show you could half-watch during a party while having a conversation, etc.

Personally though I still loathe soap operas I do adore Mythbusters despite the fluff -- in fact I love it in part for its very kitschiness. (And this has nothing to do with idol worship of asavage -- he seems like a cool guy but if I were going to bother worshiping someone on that show it would probably be Grant or Kari) I usually watch it while I'm doing something else -- knitting, making dinner, editing code, etc.

I do wish they would bring back the folklorist, though.
posted by BlueJae at 8:37 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't stand the way the show repeats shit over and over. I agree with an earlier poster, it's what DVR was made for.
posted by zzazazz at 8:38 AM on June 30, 2011


Also, I'm pretty sure SyFy has an original series in development that will run in the lower left corner of other SyFy shows.

There'll be no background to actually block out a rectangle of the other show, just the characters moving around and doing their thing with the main show going on behind them. (That means just characters against green screen. Very cheap.)

It'll probably be about ghosts.
posted by Naberius at 8:40 AM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


But then comes the real shocker. 27% of the time is spent watching advertising.

Whom exactly is this shocking to?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:44 AM on June 30, 2011


One part advertising to three parts content is the industry standard in EVERY industry.

Newspaper ad stacks are generally about 50 percent, and that's not even counting all the glossy shit or the in-house ("Read our classifieds!") ads that are usually only there to even out a column. (Disclaimer - I haven't worked at a newspaper in twenty years.) TV is positively barren of advertising in comparison.
posted by Etrigan at 8:46 AM on June 30, 2011


I can't stand the way the show repeats shit over and over. I agree with an earlier poster, it's what DVR was made for.

I've only seen an episode or two but I recall it has something to do with the way the show is structured. Because they intro all the myths in the beginning and then crosscut between them throughout the episode, saving all the busting for the 2nd half of the show, rather than having each myth be a self contained segment, they feel the need to reiterate everything at the beginning of each crosscut in case the audience has just changed the channel. It's a somewhat annoying way to structure a show like that.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2011


It's like, an episode of Mythbusters isn't a post-rock song, it doesn't need to build to some glorious conclusion. Just break it into complete segments.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:49 AM on June 30, 2011


It's a show you could half-watch during a party while having a conversation, etc.

That's it. You've just put your finger on the essential incompatibility between me and Mythbusters. When I watch a show, I give it my complete attention. Half-watching a show is alien to me. So whatever I watch had better warrant my undivided attention.
posted by Jpfed at 8:50 AM on June 30, 2011




27% of the time is spent watching advertising. . . Why is that shocking to anyone

Yeah, it's not the commercial breaks that are core problem. For most 'edutainment' show (for lack of a better term), be it culture, science, history, or voyeurstic pop sociology, even after you remove the commercials and not considering the intrusive banner ads, product placements, etc. -- for most of these shows, I say, there's about 10 - 20% actual content. You could usually tell the story they have to tell in about five minutes. The remaining air time is recapitulation, preview, and other Scheherazadian narrative tricks to hype the drama and persuade the audience to stay through to the end, and maybe through the next program.

Not surprising, since programmers have now distilled television down to its essence: placing just enough bait on the hook to keep all those eyeballs they sell to sponsors from going somewhere else.

the commercials are in the shows now.

No peeking. . . what make and model car did Zack G. rent in Due Date?
posted by Herodios at 8:52 AM on June 30, 2011


Not only is the show largely annoying to watch for the reasons discussed above (especially the repetition), it is largely not that scientific. This doesn't stop large swaths of the internet from thinking that it is the final answer in the scientific method. Single tests involving major assumptions and unvalidated measures do not falsification make.
posted by proj at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2011


And, I'm not trying to be a wet blanket -- I think the show is fun and encourages thinking about science and hypothesis testing in important ways. I just think that it took on a life of its own amongst its younger viewers who now use it as a benchmark for truthiness.
posted by proj at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2011


What is this DVR of which people speak?

I know naught of this device nor its strange powers.
posted by zizzle at 9:01 AM on June 30, 2011


I'd rather they do 10 to 15 minutes of show, end it, and then do 15 minutes of commercials which I can ignore and go take a dump or something til the next show.

Of course, that would defeat the purpose of ads - advertisers are already having trouble justifying paying for ads that people skip over with DVRs - put the ads at the end, where NOBODY will watch them? (Other than slobs too lazy to get up between shows) - advertising dollars will PLUMMET.
posted by antifuse at 9:07 AM on June 30, 2011


Common argument on MeFi, but those advertising dollars actually pay for the show's existence...
posted by proj at 9:08 AM on June 30, 2011


Considering their love of explosions, I'm shocked that Mythbusters hasn't tested the radio-controlled car explosion scene from The Dead Pool. Could an R/C car carry enough explosives to blow up a car?
posted by drezdn at 9:08 AM on June 30, 2011


Because they intro all the myths in the beginning and then crosscut between them throughout the episode, saving all the busting for the 2nd half of the show, rather than having each myth be a self contained segment, they feel the need to reiterate everything at the beginning of each crosscut in case the audience has just changed the channel.

But a couple of us have been pointing out that they don't just repeat stuff after the commercials -- they repeat stuff right away immediately. Like, in the fainting goats episode -- they had the narrator saying, "and then, finally, Kari and Tory got a goat to faint!" while we were watching a goat faint. And then immediately after the narrator said that, Tory said, "I can't believe it! We actually got a goat to faint!"

I can see the narrator having to say "they're trying to get a goat to faint," but why did we need to have Tory re-repeat exactly the same thing immediately after?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm OK with the ads. I would like more value in exchange.

Sorry about the fishhooks + eyeballs thing. Watching too many Buñuel-inspired tv commercials, maybe.
posted by Herodios at 9:11 AM on June 30, 2011


Of course, that would defeat the purpose of ads - advertisers are already having trouble justifying paying for ads that people skip over with DVRs - put the ads at the end, where NOBODY will watch them? (Other than slobs too lazy to get up between shows) - advertising dollars will PLUMMET.

As noted by others above...I pay for cable programming. So I don't have sympathy for this argument. Charge me more. Also, they stick ads in the actual content, also as noted above, so I don't buy your argument again.
posted by spicynuts at 9:27 AM on June 30, 2011


Oh, you're in trouble now. A hundred My Little Pony fans are busy photoshopping cutie marks on to Adam and Jamie.

It's been done.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't news. Hour long shows are 44 minutes. Every time. This has nothing to do with Mythbusters.
posted by CrazyJoel at 9:37 AM on June 30, 2011


it is largely not that scientific

While I'm sure that it would be possible for them to more strenuously test some of their myths, this isn't a completely fair characterization; there is a lot of sciencey stuff that doesn't get into the actual episodes because going over numbers doesn't always make for great TV, but in a lot of the behind the scenes episodes, they show how much more rigorous testing was actually involved than was shown.
posted by quin at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2011



Common argument on MeFi, but those advertising dollars actually pay for the show's existence...


Indeed. And my problem with shows like these isn't the commercials or product placement, but the content itself is typically so thin that the show relies on repetition, teasers, and various nonsense filler to flesh out what could be condensed into a seven minute segment into a half hour.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:41 AM on June 30, 2011


I just now remembered the piece in the Times about how the Discovery Channel and its sibling stations are slicing up countless hours of “content” to serve up as snippets onliné.
posted by joeclark at 9:42 AM on June 30, 2011


The repetition is actually pretty helpful to reinforce the concepts and use the show for teaching.
posted by humanfont at 9:46 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where do I find a program that will defrag my MythBusters?

It's called a BitTorrent client.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:47 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


But a couple of us have been pointing out that they don't just repeat stuff after the commercials -- they repeat stuff right away immediately.

I wasn't just talking about coming back from commercials, I was talking about going from myth to myth inside the body of the show. However, what you're describing is neither, and sounds really annoying. Sounds like nothing but time filler, and like kind of a dealbreaker.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:52 AM on June 30, 2011


going from myth to myth inside the body of the show. . .

To deliberately keep the narrative disjoint and confusing, so that you will need the constant recapping and repetition, and to ensure that nothing is resolved (if at all) until the end of the show --

which leads to maximum exposure to advertising content --

which is why the program is edited that way.
posted by Herodios at 9:59 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably not useful at this point, but: the FPP link is really insistent about setting cookies. FYI.
posted by jiawen at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2011


To deliberately keep the narrative disjoint and confusing, so that you will need the constant recapping and repetition, and to ensure that nothing is resolved (if at all) until the end of the show --

I don't know why, but the first comparison that came to my mind was Top Gear. Which does tease out their biggest segment throughout the episode sometimes but generally lets the smaller ones play out as self contained units. Much more pleasant to watch.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:03 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how everyone's all up in arms about TV ads that they can press a button on a remote to bypass or mute but apparently have no problem with the 15-second ads on YouTube and other video sites that block you from seeing the content until you've seen the ad first, or waited 15 seconds to flip back to it from the other browser tab that you've clicked over to.

I can see the narrator having to say "they're trying to get a goat to faint," but why did we need to have Tory re-repeat exactly the same thing immediately after?

Because they think that we have the attention spans of gnats? Which may more or less be accurate?
posted by blucevalo at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, but the first comparison that came to my mind was Top Gear. Which does tease out their biggest segment throughout the episode sometimes but generally lets the smaller ones play out as self contained units. Much more pleasant to watch.

Of course, being a BBC show, Top Gear doesn't need to worry about ad revenue.
posted by arto at 10:19 AM on June 30, 2011


going from myth to myth inside the body of the show. . .

The Science Channel is airing first season Mythbusters episodes. They used to do one myth at a time with roughly 3 in an episode. From a "keep you watching the show" perspective, the disjointed version works better because otherwise one'll just turn off the tv/switch the channel during myths that don't interest them.
posted by drezdn at 10:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "Narrator tells you're about to see a thing
Someone does the thing
Narrator tells you you just saw a thing
Someone tells you about the thing you just saw, often using exactly the same words the narrator just used
"

Congratulations, you just described the formula for every Presidential address (and subsequent news coverage) in the last 20+ years.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:33 AM on June 30, 2011


Yup, and I saw a very prominent National Instruments logo on Mythbusters a few days ago. (NI makes LabView, a program for designing control systems, which I imagine the Mythbusters use a whole lot.) Geekiest product placement ever!

The one I watched the other day prominently featured the EDR 3C 500 shock recorder including giving its specs (25-500 Gs), and used the IST logo. I figure they got a free equipment rental out of that.
posted by smackfu at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2011


When it first came out, I believe Mythbusters was just Myth A then Myth B then Myth C (sometimes). I would guess people were tuning out mid-show, so they mixed it up.
posted by smackfu at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2011


an entire episode about explosion myths where there is an explosion every 2 minutes at least (commercials excluded). I will watch the shit out of that episode and even sit through the commercials

At their live show in Seattle a while back, they ended the show with a long montage of the best explosions. I had to have a cigarette when it was over. Also, the gave MetaFilter a very prominent shoutout. And I wasn't the only one in the crowd who cheered, and then quickly hid their face.

I watch to the end because I am a huge geek, ad I appreciate what they do, and find their show more in line with my interests than 95% of the other stuff that's out there.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, apparently, I can't type worth shit today. I blame commercials, and withdrawal from serial commas.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only that, but they start with the primary myth, and end with the primary myth. This way, once you start watching, there is really no turning back. You will never reach a point in which you say, "oh, I have seen enough now."

Thomas Baekdal obviously does not know me.

I have a good attention span, but I have a very hard time sitting through a whole episode. I've only watched full episodes on planes when I had no other choice.

I love how everyone's all up in arms about TV ads

I thought the alarm there was quaint too. "Can you believe 16 minutes of ads per hour?!?!" Well, of course I can. That's standard TV.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011


I only catch Mythbusters during holiday marathons. Because of that, I thought the shows were intentionally drawn out to fill the programming day. I didn't know the regular show was that ad-filled

I saw a show on Spike the other day that actually ran their half-hour show in 33 minute slots on the weekend marathon. Every 5.5 hours has 5 episodes, so you get 30 minutes of extra ad time in just one afternoon.
posted by smackfu at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2011


Because they think that we have the attention spans of gnats? Which may more or less be accurate?

I used to think that I had a pretty short attention span, but I've been watching PBS a lot lately and find myself glued to the TV for the whole hour more often than not. The commercial forces behind network TV only want you to watch the ads, and since these are the same forces that pay for the actual programming you usually end up with the minimum amount of content that can hold your attention up to the next commercial break. The system is designed to hook you with as little content as possible. It's not surprising to me that people think that they have short attention spans when the majority of the programs on TV have little substance for the amount of time you invest watching them.
posted by howlingmonkey at 12:23 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have they done cow tipping yet?
posted by humanfont at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2011


I used to think that I had a pretty short attention span, but I've been watching PBS a lot lately and find myself glued to the TV for the whole hour more often than not.

Unfortunately ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2011


I watch so I can drool over Kari Byron.
posted by Bubbles Devere at 4:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Leon writes "Piracy has a history of smoothing over the rough edges of video experiences (eg removing unskippable piracy warnings). I wonder if someone could be bothered to go through Mythbusters episodes, unpick them, and stick them back together in a linear form. You could probably get each myth down to about 5 minutes, and release them as individual files."

This would be awesome and a great extra value to DVDs for very little money I'd guess.

proj writes "This doesn't stop large swaths of the internet from thinking that it is the final answer in the scientific method. Single tests involving major assumptions and unvalidated measures do not falsification make."

This is probably my greatest pet peeve. Ever since they were unable to get a too rich gas mixture to catch fire a figured the solution was to add gas I've been consious of the holes in their testing. That the INTERNET trots them out as experts drives me crazy. There was a recent AskMe that referenced one of their shows regarding fuel effiecency of clean vs. duirty cars and not only did they not appear to control for the simplest of variables the accuracy of their data collection was laughably bad.

drezdn writes "Could an R/C car carry enough explosives to blow up a car?"

Even a small electric R/C car can carry a couple pounds of cargo. A couple pounds of TNT is fairly good size explosion. Heck here is a quad rotor with a 7 pound cargo capacity. Seven pounds of TNT is quite the explosion.

quin writes "While I'm sure that it would be possible for them to more strenuously test some of their myths, this isn't a completely fair characterization; there is a lot of sciencey stuff that doesn't get into the actual episodes because going over numbers doesn't always make for great TV, but in a lot of the behind the scenes episodes, they show how much more rigorous testing was actually involved than was shown."

It's pretty fair IMO. In the example above they measured fuel consumed to a 1/16th of an inch indirectly thru a sheet of glass and a vinyl container by visually placing indicators at the fluid level in a moving car. Even setting aside the potential changes in volume of the gasoline and the container caused by temperature there is no way they could have made an accurate reading without some kind of parallax control (IE a fraction of an inch difference in head placement will result in large differences in observed level). And even that would have required smooth travel free from vibration. And they didn't seem to account for the fact that the window they were using wasn't flat vertically which would have made the volume per vertical unit change from top to bottom as the cross section of the clear hose changed.

It's a horrible example of how to do science and it wasn't even necessary as the accurate equipment is cheap and readily available.
posted by Mitheral at 4:20 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only real thing wrong with Mythbusters is that they have a tendency to explain everything in really simple terms multiple times. The problem that the Mythbusters seem to have is that they repeat themselves a lot when explaining. In order to inform people who joined mid-program, the Mythbusters recap what has happened so far and is going to happen many times in a row. Remember, to ensure the morons in the audience know what's going on, the Mythbusters go over all the details quite often during any given episode.
posted by nightchrome at 7:28 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to watch it ad-free, but then SBS went with ads. All the recaps make it perfect TV to watch in the background.

According to Neil Gaiman and Craig Ferguson Jamie's mustache makes him Cthulhu, so maybe this is part of his plan.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:08 PM on June 30, 2011


I watch Mythbusters so I can stare at Adam. Mmm, hot geeky man.

Oh, hush, I'm not the only one.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:11 PM on June 30, 2011


BOOM! FACTOIDS! REDHEADS EXPLOSIONS!

I used to work at SBS, the Aussie station that shows Mythbusters. When it first came in one of my co-workers was annoyed at them Busting the 'mobile phones cause gas station explosions' myth because she'd "heard from somebody else that they did".

Point missed.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:24 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've just come away from watching Neil Gaiman's appearance on Craig Ferguson's Late Show, and they discussed the Mythbusters a bit -- and Neil Gaiman made a joke about Jaime Heineman that nearly had laughing fit to fall off the couch. They were riffing on the mustache and his "glare" (Neil's words), when suddenly Neil said, "I've only just now realized -- Jaime is Cthulhu."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 PM on June 30, 2011


Jinx.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:27 PM on June 30, 2011


The fastest way to "watch" the show is to go to this page on Wikipedia (and the subsequent season pages) and then you know everything they know.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:55 PM on June 30, 2011


really, sounds close to what entertainment tonight pioneered like 25 years ago: spend 50% of the non-commercial time of the show teasing stories that will play at the end of the show, and then when the story runs it contains maybe fifteen seconds of footage you haven't already seen in the teasers.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:10 AM on July 1, 2011


The Gift Shop Sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look.
posted by Authorized User at 6:07 AM on July 1, 2011


Having read this thread, I've learned that:
1. People hate seeing the same thing repeated over and over again for no good reason;
2. No-one is surprised that there are so many ads in a 1 hour block;
3. That thing Mythbusters does where they re-cap things for no good reason? People hate that;
4. Mythbusters used to have a much more segmented structure in the early seasons;
5. While I hate seeing the same stuff repeated over and over again, almost verbatim, for no good reason, it seems I'm not alone: other people hate that too;

Oh, and something about repetition. I'm not sure what, I was only half paying attention.
posted by logopetria at 11:41 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Repetition?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:08 AM on July 2, 2011


Good evening. Tonight on 'It's the Mind', we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu...
posted by subbes at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2011


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