Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mythbusters on Netflix

Mythbusters is a fascinating show in many ways. That most of the episodes are streaming on Netflix is an added bonus. Plus, you can see how the show has changed structurally over the years. Aside from the obvious changes in the appearance of the hosts (aging, pregnancy, hairstyles, etc.) I've noticed three big changes in the general narrative style.

The first is that newer episodes don't go into as much depth in the context of the myth - they don't have the cultural anthropologist explaining some of the social implications of the myth itself. It's a level of detail I think added to the show, but it did slow the pacing down (which brings me to the second item).

The second relates to pacing and speed. The number of seconds spent forming complete sentences appears less. More clever comments from the hosts, shorter explanations from the narrator and more cuts between camera angles. If you look at other shows, they often tighten up their editorial styles over time. And shows from previous decades appear glacial in their pacing compared to shows now. For example, compare "Monty Python" to "A Bit of Fry & Laurie" to "Who's Line is it Anyway?" British version to "Who's Line is it Anyway?" American version to whatever sketch comedy show is being produced now. Some of these are cultural (it seems to me that the Brits are a little less frenetic than us Yanks). Some of this is just cleaning up the story, but some of this is coming at the cost of developing a deeper understanding of the material.

Thirdly, they don't make a distinct break from the more scientific content as they develop the test of a myth. I like that they've dropped that little sign saying "Warning: Science Content!" I think it's counter productive to interrupt the test of a myth by alerting people to some background science information. Science education works best by connecting with everyday phenomena - not by reinforcing fears of science as separate and only for those that can "handle" it. So while the length of the individual ideas is shorter, the actual science content is better integrated (when present).

Oh, and this brings up a fourth change - as their budget has gotten larger, the types of cameras they use has improved. I love high speed camera footage. And remote cameras, HD video, with multiple angles makes the show more interesting visually (although having lots of viewing angles means more editing).

One thing I would like to see - some kind of exciting/interesting set of demonstrations and experiments that you can do at home. The best way to keep kids interested in science is to allow them to learn and discover on their own. "Playing" with science is part of that joyful discovery I've talked about before.

No comments:

Post a Comment