After presenting the “What’s the Buzz?” session at this year’s World Congress of Science & Factual Producers, MythBusters hosts Jon Lung and Brian Louden spoke with TV Real about the new iteration of the show, which debuted last month on Science Channel.
The original MythBusters saw Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage debunk myths using science on Discovery Channel from 2003 to 2016. After its finale, Discovery’s sister network Science revealed its plans to continue the Emmy-winning series, with the new presenters named at the end of the reality competition MythBusters: The Search. The winners were Jon Lung, who hails from Staten Island, New York, and Brian Louden, a native of Spring, Texas.
TV REAL: What was it like being selected for MythBusters: The Search and then finding out that you landed the job as co-hosts?
LUNG: Brian and I have been 14-year fans of MythBusters, from the very first burnt eyebrow on Adam Savage all the way to the end, when they essentially drove a plow truck they had built through all the props they had acquired over 14 years. I was in grad school when I found out that Adam and Jamie retired, and I was Googling “MythBusters” at least once a week. I found out Jamie Hyneman was working on all these cool projects, and Adam Savage was doing a ton of stuff. And then one time I looked it up and I found out that there was an application to search for the next generation of MythBusters. I thought it was a joke and I was like, Oh, what are the odds? And so I finished my last two months of graduate school, got my master’s, went back and found out the application was still up and I said, Hey, what the heck? I should do it—I love this kind of stuff! I applied and like a week later they got back to me.
LOUDEN: [I had] mostly the same start: 14-year fan, watching MythBusters from the very first episode to that very last minute. It was sort of always what I wanted to do. I became a paramedic and did all these different jobs, and then I was sitting around and I’d actually lost my job in the oil business because the whole market crashed and I was just thinking, What am I going to do next? I was looking for something good and I got this email from my mom with a link to the MythBusters: The Search application. So I have my mom to thank for the fact that I knew it existed. Of course when your mom sends you something like that, you can think all day that there’s no chance, but you’re still going to definitely fill it out. After a Skype interview and a phone call, the next thing I know, everything else is on TV!
TV REAL: What has it been like filming the new version of MythBusters? Is there a lot of pressure for you to live up to the global success and longevity of the original?
LUNG: It’s less about the pressure and more about the honor of continuing a legacy. What made us big fans of the original MythBusters to begin with was the commitment to making science and engineering and design so accessible. They learned, they made mistakes, and you’d all learn together watching on TV. And so to be able to continue that legacy—and hopefully make science and engineering and design just as accessible as our predecessors did—is pretty exciting.
TV REAL: What is the process that goes into selecting the myths that you debunk in each episode?
LOUDEN: The great thing is, there are always myths out there and they’re coming from every direction. And so really, it’s less about finding the myths and more about finding the myths that make [sense for] MythBusters, where we have a unique process that we have to go through. We need myths that are going to have a story that we can tell over time, that are going to have small-scale testing that leads us into the big-scale, and then, of course, some big-scale tests that we can perform. So, we get these myths from left, right, up, down, and then we get together as a group, where basically everybody associated at all in our shop, in production, or anything, gets together and figures out what’s good and how we are going to develop it. Then [Jon and I go] over to the producers and directors, we narrow it down once we’ve selected some and pick our absolute myth.
TV REAL: How is the reboot different from the original version? Are there just as many car crashes and explosions as there used to be?
LOUDEN: Booms, bangs, gunshots and all that, they’re a tactical piece of MythBusters; they’re there no matter what because of what we’re testing. So, our format’s the same. Our look has more or less the same [style], but a new shop that’s Jon’s and mine. From the start, you’ll notice it’s very empty, and then you’ll watch it grow with us as we grow as MythBusters. What’s really different is not MythBusters, but simply just me and Jon, because you’re taking people who have totally different backgrounds and asking them to do the same sort of research and the same sort of experimentation. So, we’re going to have these crazy, unique views to do them, and I think that’s pretty awesome.
TV REAL: Have you received any feedback or advice from Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage?
LUNG: I’m still holding out to meet Jamie Hyneman. I know that he spends time in the shop and he does all these projects. But Brian and I had the honor of meeting Adam Savage twice—once in the very beginning of the search, before the cameras even got picked up. We were in orientation, and he was actually nice enough to stop by just to give all the contestants a bit of advice. He said, No one really knows what’s going to happen here, but the most important thing you can do is to be yourself and have fun because the audience can tell if you’re faking it. Brian and I have said that we’ve taken that advice full-heartedly from that moment all the way until now. I think that’s what kind of helped us get to the position we are in now as MythBusters. We did a panel at New York Comic Con, and then we had the pleasure of meeting Adam in person, a true meet-and-greet, just one on two, and [we said], We’ve looked up to you for 14 years and you gave us this advice and we stuck to it, and I think that’s what helped us get here. And he was like, Whoa, that’s fantastic to hear! He is an absolutely lovely man and that was absolutely amazing.
TV REAL: Even though you’ve never been on TV before, you both have a great on-screen presence and chemistry. Was that something you had to build up to or did it happen right away?
LOUDEN: That’s a question we get a lot. It’s sort of that same question of, Are you friends in real life? [Laughs] The thing about that is for The Search, they went out and got ten people who are very alike, so you’re going to find people who are interested in the same things. When you sit those ten down and give them eight weeks of intense, crazy, peer-building but challenging things [to do], you come out of that—no matter what—friends, basically. When it comes to MythBusters now, Jon and I are still friends. We do everything together at work, we travel together; we love spending time together.
TV REAL: In this age of fake news, is it more important now than ever to separate fact from fiction and educate viewers on common misconceptions?
LOUDEN: There’s definitely an age of fake news, alternative fact and all that’s going on right now, but that’s something that’s just spread by those terms. Those ideas have always been there, with people always believing them, which is why the importance of MythBusters and testing real-world things to understand what’s real and what’s myth will always be important. So, it’s absolutely important now, but even if the climate changed, it would always be absolutely important.