Emmy spotlight: Full STEAM ahead! ‘MythBusters Jr.’ recaptures the explosive spirit of the original series

MythBusters” has kept me company on TV since college. It debuted in 2003 and has given me a head full of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics); you can usually find me reabsorbing it into my bloodstream during holiday-season marathons on the Science Channel. But I was skeptical when “MythBusters Jr.” was announced. Would the new version of the series be worth watching as an adult, or would it be kids’ stuff? As it turns out, the answer is yes on both counts, so I hope the show gets some long overdue recognition from the television academy.

The original series was led by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, a pair of effects artists using their technical skills to test urban legends, conventional wisdom and Hollywood action scenes to see if they hold up to reality. Though the show was perhaps most famous for its gloriously gratuitous explosions, its real appeal was the way it used the scientific method to solve problems, which made duct tape just as invigorating a subject as bombs and ballistics. Occasionally other shows tried to copy its make-things-go-boom formula, but all those booms were a bust without the ideas to back it up — there was always a method to “MythBusters'” madness.

Thankfully, the “Jr.” version of the series hasn’t dumbed anything down for the kids. On the contrary, the six juniors recruited for the series, who range from age 12 to 15, are tech prodigies with skills that allow them to tackle myths just as complex as their grownup counterparts did. With the guidance of Savage, who returned as host, the team tested exploding batteries, giant dominoes and yes, more duct tape. Recurring guest Vince Gilligan even came back to test out another of his “Breaking Bad” set pieces. And instead of being just a “MythBusters” retread, “Jr.” feels revitalized. Savage seems to rediscover the joy of applied science whenever he watches it through the eyes of his young proteges.

The original “MythBusters” earned eight Emmy nominations. From 2009-2013 it contended for Best Reality Program. Then that category was split between structured reality shows and unstructured verite-style series, and “MythBusters” earned three more bids in the structured category (2014-2016). But unfortunately it never won either race. Now “Jr.” has been entered for consideration for Best Structured Reality Program, while Savage is a contender for Best Reality Host. I think it’s worthy of a nom in both categories, so make it happen, voters — Emmys or “Bust”!

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