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Discovery's 'Mythbusters' still happily blowing stuff up

Susan Young
The Oakland Tribune (MCT)
MYTHBUSTERS - 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday - Discovery Channel

Really, does it get any cooler than testing out the classic cartoon joke involving a trail of gunpowder and a big explosion?

Not for "Mythbuster" Adam Savage, who deems this blow-up one of his favorites. You can't swing a comatose Sylvester without hitting a rerun of "Mythbusters" on Discovery Channel, but finding fresh episodes can be a challenge since the network rolls out a few at a time throughout the year. The good news is that fans can look forward to seven new episodes beginning Wednesday.

"We lit a line of gunpowder to a keg leading to an explosion," Savage says of the segment airing Wednesday. "It was one of the more minor explosions we've done on `Mythbusters,' but more deeply satisfying from a cartoon perspective."

The series has gone beyond merely being a hit cable series. It's a cultural icon, based in co-host Jamie Hyneman's special effects studio on San Francisco. The No. 1 question the `busters get asked is if they will ever run out of myths?

"We say we'll run out of ideas when people ever stop believing stupid things," Savage says. "We just finished one that has confounded us our entire careers."

The episode, which airs in December, finds Savage and Hyneman tackling a question baffling everyone from bloggers to pilots: If a plane is traveling at takeoff speed on a conveyor belt, and that conveyor belt is matching the speed in reverse, can the plane take off?

"We put the plane on a quarter-mile conveyor belt and tested it out," says Savage about the experiment using a pilot and his Ultralight plane. "I won't tell you what the outcome was, but the pilot and his entire flight club got it wrong."

Savage often describes "Mythbusters" as "'Jackass' meets Mr. Wizard." And when you think about wacky stunts done on the show, Tory Belleci's name invariably pops up. On the Nov. 14 "Supersized" two-hour episode, Belleci will attempt to wakeboard from the back of a cruise ship.

Not, he says, the craziest thing he's had to do on the show. In fact, this season also has him testing out whether your pants can catch fire while being dragged behind a horse. Other seasons has seen him sticking his tongue onto a frozen pole and getting in a pen with a bull to see if the animal would indeed charge him because he was wearing a red outfit.

"When I was in the arena with the bull or with the crocodile, everything inside my body was saying don't do it, but you know you have to do it," Belleci says. "I feel like I spent my whole life preparing for this job. I loved playing with fire and at 19 I was almost arrested for making a pipe bomb. Everything I used to get in trouble for I'm now doing as my job."

Both Belleci and Grant Imahara came to "Mythbusters" after working at Industrial Light and Magic.

"People always ask why I would leave ILM, and it's because `Mythbusters' sounded like fun. Working on movies and TV is a blast, and ILM has the most talented people in the world," Imahara says. "But on `Mythbusters' I've been able to go places I would never have access to otherwise."

Not only that, but Imahara says he believes "Mythbusters" just may be responsible for making nerds cool.

"Look at `Heroes' and `Numb3rs' and all these new shows coming out now and we were on the forefront," Imahara says. "The nerd is the protagonist, the hero. I worked at ILM the same time Masi Oka was there. Who would have thought that two Asian-American nerds from ILM would be on hit shows?"

___

Who can forget such memorable dialogue as high school sophomore Angela Chase saying, "My parents keep asking how school was. It's like saying, `How was that drive-by shooting?' You don't care how it was. You're lucky to get out alive."

If you aren't already in line to get "My-So Called Life: The Complete Series," get thee to a store.

Yes, we know the DVD series came out in 2002, but it was a mangled mess and undeserving of one of our favorite series of all time. This release by Shout! is worth every bit of the $69.99 asking price, although we're sure you can pick it up at a discounted rate. Claire Danes starred as 15-year-old Angela Chase, the bright, talented high school sophomore who turned a clear eye to her changing relationships with her parents. Her best friend was gay Rickie (Wilson Cruz), although the object of her affections was predictable: the beautiful Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto).

"I just like how he's always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great," Angela tells her friend Rayanne when talking about having sex with Jordan. "Well, either sex or a conversation. Ideally both."

In the set, we have all 19 glorious episodes - would there were more, but low ratings and Danes' reluctance to return for a second season spelled cancellation - a commemorative book and delicious new features and interviews.

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