LOS ANGELES — It all came down to the name.
Special effects designer, educator and TV personality Adam Savage — who for 15 seasons starred with Jamie Hyneman on the cable series “MythBusters” — had stayed away from all of the talk about rebooting the reality series because he was enjoying his time off. He only became intrigued when he was pitched the idea of doing “MythBusters Jr.” (8 p.m. Wednesdays on the Science Channel).
He liked the idea of dealing with “juniors.”
“I just turned 51 and my kids left the house. I have an empty nest and all of that is part of realizing that it’s time for me to start passing on everything to the next generation. Everything I know needs to move out into the world,” Savage says. “It’s not a show about teaching these guys how to do stuff. It’s not a kids’ show. These are the new ‘MythBusters’ and I’m their camp counselor and they’re advisor and sometimes their test subject.
“But the moment I heard that phrase, ‘MythBusters Jr.’ I saw all that. I realized how much potential there is in it. I’ve always thought of ‘MythBusters’ as an aspirational show, specifically aspirational as in the terms of, ‘Wow, I wish I could be there doing that, what those folks are doing,’ and that’s the show that we’re making. You’re going to watch them blowing up stuff just as big as we did.”
The potential of sharing his knowledge while working with brilliant young minds was enough of a lure that Savage returns to television as host and executive producer of “MythBusters Jr.” For the 10-episode series, Savage has teamed-up with six robotics wizzes, builders and inventors who are all under the age of 16. Just like the original “MythBusters,” they tackle a wide variety of myths: about driving, explosions, movies, popular culture and more. Look for a return of experiments using Duct Tape.
The junior MythBusters are: Valerie Castillo, 15, a builder and robotics wiz; Elijah Horland, 12, a self-taught electronics maker and programmer; Cannan Huey-You, 12, a college sophomore studying astrophysics at Texas Christian University; Jesse Lawless, 15, a builder of custom hot rods; Rachel Pizzolato, 14, a three-time New Orleans Science Fair champion; and Allie Weber, 13, a maker, builder, and inventor.
The one thing all of the junior MythBusters have in common is a passion for science that started early in their life.
Lawless says, “When I was first born, my dad had this car shop, and he used to always build custom cars. I learned a lot of skills from him and I started building a lot of stuff and I started learning welding and different things. I actually made a little mini-chopper.”
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Pizzolato’s interest in science began when she was 4. That’s when she started building houses and making jewelry. She adds that all of the MythBusters started by taking things apart and building something new out of the parts.
Despite the new — and much younger — faces, the series will not stray too far from what fans of the original “MythBusters” remember. What will be different is that the new series will be informed by the curiosity and the intelligence of the youngsters. Savage plays down the generational difference between the shows; just as in his years with Hyneman, he sees the young MythBusters as his colleagues. The biggest change is that the myths being tested have to be completed in a week and that puts limits on how big they can go.
Savage says, “We’re filming this on a set that is a working shop. It’s a full wood shop, metal shop, with all the same tools that Jamie and I had access to. We also, in addition to that, have a full maker space with CNC routers, plasma cutters, laser cutters, 3-D printers, and these guys are using every bit of it.
“One of our safety consultants is Gever Tulley, the author of ‘50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).’ He has a summer camp called the Tinkering School in which he promises your kid will come back from summer camp with bandages and bruises. He is an expert at teaching kids how to do dangerous things and that’s exactly what we wanted. Dangerous things safely.”
Huey-You loved being able to work with all of the equipment because the majority of his previous experience has been academics. The college classes the 12-year-old has been taking have not created much access to power tools.
Also featured in “MythBusters Jr.” are design and engineering experts Tamara Robertson, whose talents have been seen in “MythBusters: The Search and SciJinks” and Jon Marcu, a special effects technician who has worked on numerous of television and film productions.