An educational science show that uses demonstration and experiment as its primary means of conveying information.
hit the airwaves in the year 2003 and became extremely popular, a number of Follow the Leader
shows began appearing in its wake, leading to a new breed of Edutainment
The crux of these shows is that they ask questions about the world around us, then set out to answer them through a combination of quasi-scientific experiments, building of zany contraptions, Education Through Pyrotechnics
and Stuff Blowing Up
The actual "education" vs "explosions" ratio varies by the quality and target audience of the show. The best of these shows are often Carried By The Hosts
, whose knowledge and personality drive the show's content as much as the explosions do. Others try to highlight Docu Soap
style drama between the hosts and/or builders, for better or worse. The show's hosts will frequently be supplemented by a cast of recurring experts to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
See also: Science Show
(though History is also a popular target for these shows).
- The Ur-Example is certainly Ask Mr. Wizard, hosted by Don Herbert, which was first aired all the way back in 1951, and was later retooled as Mr. Wizard's World on Nickelodeon from 1983-1990. Herbert used simple experiments to demonstrate the science behind everyday tools and objects, and is an acknowledged influence on the Mythbusters as well as on the likely Trope Codifier Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- Mythbusters, of course. The show started with just Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, two special effects experts, doing urban legends and debunking Hollywood Style tropes (and Tropes Examined by the MythBusters is its own page). Over the years they've added aphorisms, physics thought experiments, historical recreations and product claim testing to their repertoire, as well as adding (and later losing) the Build Team and making friends in nearly every fire department around San Francisco.
- Build Team member Kari Byron got her own Science channel show, Head Rush, which is essentially a Re-Cut of Mythbusters with interviews and experiments kids can do at home.
- The first copycat show was Brainiac: Science Abuse, a British show hosted by Richard Hammond. It tries to seriously investigate myths and popular expressions, but due to a lack of scientific rigor and focus on Fanservice, explosions and Rule of Cool, it's much closer to Jackass than MythBusters in execution.
- Notable for their "testing" of alkali metals in water; they demonstrated Sodium and Potassium accurately, but when their expectations as they moved down the group were not met, they opted to fake the results they wanted with explosives, instead of actually exploring the science of why Rubidium and Ceasium don't go kaboom when dropped in a bathtub. It justly earned them a fair bit of flak - sample quote, "what is the point of a science programme that shows what happens when you add A to B if the sequence shows nothing of the kind?"
- Several years later and after he left Brianiac, Hammond would return with Blast Lab, a children's show that took the Stuff Blowing Up For Science! parts of Brainiac and Mythbusters and ran with it.
- The Food Network's 2008 show Food Detectives was essentially Mythbusters with a focus on food-related myths and a much, much smaller budget. Host Ted Allen has stated that the show basically owes everything to Mythbusters ' success, even if Food Network won't.
- Smash Lab was a short-lived show on Discovery Channel airing after Mythbusters. The idea was to push the envelope with (read: smash) vehicles and designs to figure out how to create safer designs, with a build-off between two teams and test runs for each design.
- On The History Channel, there's a show called The Reinventors — which is about two guys who "reinvent" old designs for ancient devices, superweapons, etc. You know, like Da Vinci's helicopter. It was also prone to showcasing the Docu Soap style arguments between the two builders.
- The Military Channel has Weapon Masters which features one host rebuilding an ancient weapon using period-accurate technology while the second host uses modern tools and components. They then compare the effectiveness of each.
- Time Warp takes the high-speed camera work that Mythbusters helped popularize and the idea that people were willing to tune in just for that. Each show picked a selection of things to examine and situations to put them through and broke down how they worked with the slow motion - fun things like fluid dynamics and martial artists. Interestingly Time Warp cuts out pretty much everything that all the other Follow The Leader shows did, especially problematic. The hosts are professionals and they simply look to find unique things to capture on high-speed. There is some science involved to explain what they are watching but there aren't any builds or co-host drama.
- Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior, a show that sprinkles the Mythbuster-style elements into Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, pitting different historical warriors against each other. It not only contains a reasonable amount of both scientific and historical content, it also features tons of gratuitous high-speed shots of weapon decapitation or punctures. Because of the cool fights, long discussions about who will win and the arguments with friends about who should have won that will inevitably happen when one starts watching it, though fans may disagree vehemently with some of their match-ups and methodology.
- TruTV's Man Vs. Cartoon - which tries Wile E. Coyote's schemes in real life... just to see what would happen if someone one actually tried them, set up as a competition between groups of bickering engineering students.
- I Didn't Know That is a 2007 British TV Series in which industrial scientists Johnny Phillips and Richard Ambrose conduct light-hearted experiments with everyday objects to learn more about how they are manufactured, tested, and transported.
- Cartoon Network's Dude, What Would Happen?, where a bunch of teenage guys get crazy ideas and wonder what would happen if they tried them - and then test them out.
- German TV station ARD retooled their scientific quiz show Kopfball into a Mythbusters clone. The myths are questions from the viewers that are answered by the hosts. It's a solid show with some spectacular stunts (e.g. can you water ski behind a cruise ship), but sometimes it copies the Mythbusters myths 1:1 (e.g. the Knight Rider myth, whether you can drive on a driving truck, even the water-ski behind a cruise ship).
- Another entry from The History Channel: What Went Down, which stages recreations - via CGI and special effects - of historic events, to counteract Hollywood History and inaccurate myths about the events. (Ex. the idea that, at Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona was sunk by a bomb down its smokestack. The smokestacks of such ships were designed to prevent such an occurence.)
- There is, or perhaps was, a "scienc-y questions answered with demonstrations" show on Japanese TV. One of the most "actual useful physics" clips is here and you can find others uploaded by the same YouTuber under analagous names. Despite the language issue it's pretty easy to tell what's going on.
- G4's Effin' Science: A spin-off of Attack of the Show!. Take a bunch of experiments Mythbusters already didnote , remove the actual myths from the equation, and roll the whole thing up in Rule of Cool.
- G4 later complimented Effin' Science with another Mythbusters style program, Proving Ground, in June 2011. That show featured stunts from various Video Games, Comic Books and television shows being tested in the real world. After just one episode had aired, its co-host, Jackass star Ryan Dunn, died in a car accident and the show was pulled from G4's schedule immediately
- Like Time Warp above, LoadingReadyRun's show Daily Drop makes extensive use of the high-speed camera. Instead of anything particularly science-related, though, LRR simply used it to subject various items to a Slow-Motion Drop. Crowbars and cinder blocks optional.
- Rock and Roll Acid Test was a program which aired on Fuse TV in which urban legends from the history of pop music were examined were put to the test (even the ones they found to be historically false, just to see what actually happened).
- A non-video example is the What If? blog by Randall Munroe of xkcd fame. Although it fits the basic mold of the trope, there are almost no actual experiments as the questions generally involve hypothetical scenarios that are physically impossible or unfeasible. They have a disturbing tendency to destroy large portions of the planet, actually.