“Adam Ruins Everything” may not be on everyone’s radar, but chances are he’s ruined something you love — in a good way. The truTV series, which debuted in September 2015 and returns for a second season this August, follows Adam Conover as he explains how traditions and institutions we take for granted aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, from engagement rings, to airport security, to restaurants. This was one of my favorite surprises of the fall TV season.
Well, not a surprise really. The series was adapted from a CollegeHumor web series I already watched and loved. In four-minute comedy sketches, Conover would interrupt strangers’ daily lives to explain the unsavory histories of things like purebred dogs, tipping and even circumcision. The surprise was how well the show expanded from brief video clips to 12 half-hour episodes, which grouped together related topics: in a standout installment, “Adam Ruins Work,” Conover takes down 40-hour work weeks and unpaid internships, then advocates for salary transparency.
Conover adopts the persona of a jolly know-it-all, enthusiastically imparting knowledge whether people want it or not (usually not); the interplay recalls a saying: “The truth will set you free, but first it’ll piss you off.” Indeed, you probably are better off knowing that halitosis was invented by an ad campaign to sell you mouthwash, and that food drives are less useful than just giving money to charity, but some of these revelations may be disillusioning at first.
That’s why the show’s humor is so effective. Playing like a cross between “MythBusters” and “Last Week Tonight,” it presents its research with wit, and the interplay between Conover and the bystanders he inflicts his knowledge on has a charming comic tension, not unlike the odd-couple pairing of “MythBusters” stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.
And episodes almost always end on a happy note: after tearing down pernicious myths, he builds you back up again with helpful solutions and insights — the best ways to give and get around, and why we should appreciate an invention as simple and miraculous as clean running water.
The series also shows its work. It cites sources for its claims on-screen and on its website, and it invites experts in their fields to speak for themselves. So if you know better, you could actually ruin “Adam Ruins Everything,” but just like the show itself, ruining everything actually makes everything better.
Below, watch one of the original CollegeHumor segments that was eventually revisited in the expanded series, and find out why you’re getting engaged wrong.
Photo credit: TruTV