Exclusive: Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman react to Discovery's longest-running series concluding in separate interviews
There’s no debunking this one: The next season of Discovery’s Mythbusters will be its last, EW has learned exclusively.
The pioneering reality series, one of cable’s longest-running shows, will stage its final gonzo experiment during next year’s 14th season after 248 episodes and 2,950 experiments.
But there is some upside: Stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have secretly known the end was coming all year and have been crafting an explosive final run for the seven-time Emmy-nominated series. “It was my greatest fear that Mythbusters would just stop and we wouldn’t be able to do proper final episodes,” Savage tells EW. “So whether it’s myths about human behavior or car stories or explosion stories, we tried to find the most awesome example of each category and build on our past history.”
Below we have two must-read interviews with Savage and Hyneman. The perfectly opposed duo, famously never friends off-screen, offer very different perspectives when asked their feelings about the show’s conclusion, with Savage expressing remorse over the turn of events, and Hyneman confessing some longtime frustration with the Mythbusters format. In addition to the final season, the duo are going back on the road for one last Mythbusters Live tour starting next month, and both expect it might be their final time working together.
There is one thing the costars agree on, however: The proud legacy that Mythbusters will leave behind, as the cable reality show has inspired generations of viewers of all ages to become interested in science. “Their unique personalities and extraordinarily diverse skill sets have literally redefined science television,” notes Beyond Productions general manager John Luscombe.
Below are the Q&A interviews. Savage and Hyneman requested to be interviewed separately. We start with Savage, then go to Hyneman, then return to Savage for a couple follow-up questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you learned this was the final season?
ADAM SAVAGE: Every show has its bell curve. We’re cognizant of our ratings. It’s not like they were terrible but we could see them changing. Three or four years ago we started wondering more if we were going to be renewed. It’s not like it’s unexpected. Still it was kind of amazing that it happened. The thing that really makes me happy is most cable shows like ours just end. They get past their freshness date, you finish a season and then you hear you’ll never see another one. I truly thought that’s the way Mythbusters would end. We’ve been filming the last season this year and we get to send it off. We get to pay homage to this thing that’s changed our lives.
It’s very unusual for a show in the cable reality genre to have that kind of heads-up notice. Even serialized network dramas sometimes don’t get that.
SAVAGE: It really is! It’s a testament to Discovery, they’ve always said to us we’re more than a TV show, we’re really deeply embedded in the their brand mission and they put their money where their mouth is. People fall in love with shows even when the ratings are low. It’s great to be able to tell fans how important they were because they’re are they reason we’re on the air and have given us 40 percent of the stories we’ve told. The Internet and social media radically changed the way we made this show as we made it. We’re now getting second generation compliments from Ph.D. graduates who say they got into science because of Mythbusters and now they’re raising their kids on Mythbusters. Pretty much everything that’s happened on Mythbusters has exceeded our expectations. Our finale will go out with a bang, as everyone would expect.
When were you told?
SAVAGE: We knew it at the beginning of 2015. So we’ve been filming the last season episodes all year long. I can tell you I’ve been going through all the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stages of grief — anger, acceptance, denial — it’s all been happening. I did the math at some point, I spent something like 25,000 hours filming. There is also some release. I’m tired. We’ve been making the show 40 weeks a year. That’s a rough schedule, even in television. At the same time, the future is uncertain and that’s an intense state to confront. Mythbusters has have given me this incredible platform to tell stories and produce television. I’m really excited about doing more storytelling in the future, in front of and behind the camera.
For the final season, I know you’re blowing up a cement truck with 10,000 pounds of ANFO, and crushing a 60-ton train tanker with steam implosion …
SAVAGE: When we construct the final season list of stories, our guiding principle was what are the iconic categories that fans of Mythbusters that should not be ignored in the final season. We really tried to address each one of those. The series finale is pretty amazing. I wanted Jamie and I to wake up to Suzanne Pleshette afterwards, but we did find a way to say goodbye.
Looking back, what is the best segment you’ve ever done?
SAVAGE: It’s almost impossible to answer. I was particularly astonished at our “Flights of Fancy” episode last season. My flight in the U2, I think that’s the loveliest segments from a cinematography and storytelling perspective. I also loved the variance of going to The Simpsons one week and to Indiana Jones the next. The episodes that stand out are the ones where we learned something new about how to make the show.
What are you most proud of in terms of the what the show’s accomplished?
SAVAGE: I am most proud that we found a way to tell compelling stories that have real information in them. I see the state of reality television — whether it’s Pawn Stars or Steampunk’d or Face Off — and I see the same kind of narrative playing out endlessly, with people competing and trash-talking. Sometimes you see some craft being exercised, but it’s very formulaic. Mythbusters stayed away from being formulaic. We’ve continued to make a fairly vibrant and vital show that I’m very proud of. Jamie and I will head out on tour in November and half the audience will be kids under the age of 8, all the way up to cranky old engineers. When people say, “I’m a physics teacher and your show has helped me do my job,” or, “I have a kid with ADHD and he really responds to the show,” every time I hear one of those things it moves me and humbles me. We were even scientists when we started. Making this show has fundamentally changed the way I think and act in the world.
What do you think you’ll do next?
SAVAGE: I’m definitely going to do more television, behind and in front of the camera. I love producing this show and figuring out how to structure the episodes. I’m going to jump into the website Tested.com. I’m looking forward to visit Comic-Con.
… And now we’re switching over to my interview with Hyneman …
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you learned this was the final season?
HYNEMAN: We’re executive producers on the show and have been for a while. So we were part of that decision. We felt like we’ve had really strong material for the whole run. It’s been 14 years and its just time. We want to go out on a strong point.
What would you like to tease about the last episodes?
HYNEMAN: There’s an emphasis on looking back, we could do a Ph.D. dissertation on the things we’re tackling. We’ve tried to go as deeply as possible into the things we’re doing, and gave them the respect and care they deserve.
What will you do next?
HYNEMAN: There’s a scripted show we’re executive producing at CBS that was announced, and that’s exciting. I can’t talk about it yet, but when it comes out it’s going to knock some people’s socks off. As far as me personally, there’s some outside projects I’m starting to ramp up. There’s an Office of Naval Research project. I’m developing some new kinds of robotic firefighting vehicles to help with the massive forest fires we’re dealing with in the West. I’m keeping the M5 [special effects company]. I’m a builder, first and foremost. There are people I have to work with filming [Mythbusters] that are interested in how to build things for the sake of the story rather than what I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t want to sound sour grapes about it, but for a show, you have to tell a story. You present it in a way that’s interesting and easy to follow. But I want to circle back to actually doing build projects where I don’t have a bunch of film people getting in my way and manipulating what’s going on.
You and Adam have famously had a great working partnership but have never been friends. Given that, do you think you’ll still continue any kind of partnership now that the show is over?
HYNEMAN: That’s a good question. We like to point out we’ve known each other for 25 years and never once sat down to have dinner alone together. We sort of managed to tolerate each other. I think it’s probably safe to say that continuing our onscreen relationship in front of the camera is probably not happening. I expect Adam may well pursue things in front of the camera, but I’m most likely not. It’s not who I am. This has been a very rewarding and interesting decade, but its not really what I’m cut out for.
It’s interesting to hear you say that. Mythbusters has been a huge series. You’re obviously an integral part of the show and therefore one reason for its success over all these years. So I think some fans would disagree that you’re not cut out for it.
HYNEMAN: I appreciate that and I’m glad that was the case because that meant I was doing my job. I suppose the difference there is I’m not somebody who wants to be in front of the camera, so I lent a certain kind of grounding to what was going on. It’s part of the interplay between myself and Adam, who loves to be in front of the camera. It’s part of our chemistry and one of the reasons for the show’s success. But I’d put it this way: I like the building and engineering so much, and if I’m doing something in front of the camera, it takes 5–10 times as long as if I was just making it. For somebody who truly is interested in design and engineering, it’s frustrating. I’m like a race horse attached to a freight wagon.
I should circle back to your comment about some people manipulating and interfering with the show. I don’t know if I’ve heard you say that before, and I wanted to give you a chance to elaborate and explain so it’s not misinterpreted.
HYNEMAN: I’m concerned it will come off like I’m complaining about it. Certainly there are a lot of things I would have liked to have changed in that regard. I’ve been working in film behind the camera, and now in front of it, for over 30 years. And I understand filmmaking is a collaborative effort and has to be. There are always compromises, always give and take. But we are somewhat unique in that space. And the general way this was set up, and the way it had to be set up, is that around 50 percent of what we do is actual science and engineering. We had to do this daily dance of interacting with the camera and with production people who have totally different priorities about what’s going on than I do. It’s a difficult and unique process. The filmmakers often give priority to the results. I know some reality TV programs that present themselves as giving you something that’s real when in reality it’s totally contrived. Mythbusters is not at all that way. There are times when compromises have to be made that can be frustrating to somebody like myself who’s a purist for the engineering and not in it for a desire to be on television. It’s about building something I might not have access to otherwise. So it’s understandable that I’d get frustrated when I get pulled in another direction.
Okay, that’s clear. What’s your fondest memory of the show?
HYNEMAN: There have been so many moments where we were doing something really unusual we’d never have the opportunity to do. It goes back to when we were doing the first rocket car and I was piloting this car in the desert from a helicopter. It was like some wild animal in the savanna and it out-ran the helicopter. It was like a kid’s dream. There have been a lot of moments like that over the years.
Do you have anything else to add?
HYNEMAN: Other than embracing how much I’ve learned and grown in this process, the main thing I value is the show has had an impact on popular culture and science. Adam and I do a live stage tour — and this fall will be my last one for the same reasons I said, about not waiting to be in front of the camera anymore. We’ve seen thousands of people across the country and abroad. The kind of appreciation that’s been expressed by people all over the place for what we’ve done, for encouraging them or their family or kids to be interested in science, is absolutely wonderful. I can’t think of anything that would be more important than that. I think there’s something in the playful experimentation that we do that seems to appeal to the way people’s minds work, young people in particular, by doing things that are destructive and creative and challenging, all at the same time. Science is a deeply creative enterprise. The public doesn’t often associate science with being deeply creative. We have pointed out how fun and creative and thought-provoking science and experimentation can be. The rest is all fluff.
… After speaking with Hyneman, I figured I should circle back to Savage because I didn’t ask him the partnership question, and I also thought he might have an opinion on Hyneman’s feelings about the show’s format. I reach Savage a week after our previous interview. Appropriately enough, he’s filming one of the Mythbusters final episodes …
I asked Jamie whether you guys still expect to collaborate after the show is over. He figured this was probably going to be it.
SAVAGE: I would say the same thing. It has been an incredibly productive marriage, but I think this is plausibly the end of the line. Though you never say never. We were at the White House last night, live hosting the online streaming for their astronomy night. I expect we’ll be thrust together again through many different circumstances.
He also mentioned he has long been frustrated by the show’s storytelling, the compromises needed to make the show an entertaining format. I suspect that’s something you’ve heard before.
SAVAGE: Jamie was never interested in the storytelling. This has been one of the primary sources of friction between us — what is experimentation and what is storytelling? I want to be as honest as possible about who I am and I like putting on costumes and [making the process entertaining]. Jamie doesn’t give a shit about the camera, and that is also equally as compelling — he’s just being himself. Storytelling is all I’m interested in. When I was gluing [pieces onto] the spaceships for Star Wars, it’s only interesting if I know the story behind what I’m doing. The only thing I’m doing is communicating a story with the things I make. The reason I label everything with colored tape is so viewers who want to freeze-frame the show can follow along. I don’t think it should come as a surprise that Jamie is not that interested in that.
…The interview concluded, Savage notes he’s bracing himself for the online reaction that will come once news of Mythbusters’ demise hits the Internet. It’s been nearly 14 years, and all their fans will know the secret they’ve been living with for so many months. “I’ve been going through genuine grief,” Savage says. He sounds surprised, as if objectively observing himself from a distance, a scientist whose own reaction has now become the experiment. “Even food doesn’t taste as good.”
The final season of Mythbusters starts Jan. 9, 2016 on Discovery. Science Channel will air every previous episode of Mythbusters ever in a marathon beginning Dec. 23.
The final Mythbusters Live tour starts Nov. 13, tickets here.
Here’s a preview clip from the final season: ‘MacGyver Explosion’: