Preview: Discovery Channel’s Prototype This! Takes the MythBusters Formula and Builds on It

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I have a theory that Discovery Channel’s ultimate mission is to get everyone to stop watching network reality shows by making their programming progressively more fun. This theory is borne out by Prototype This!, their new show premiering this Wednesday after MythBusters. The new show has a lot of the MythBusters feel to it, but, instead of being about trying to recreate things, it’s all about innovation.

The four stars of Prototype This! are Joe Grand, Terry Sandin, Zoz Brooks, and Mike North. Each has his own specialty to use in solving the given problem of each episode: Joe is a genuine hardware hacker and electronics expert; Terry is a special-effects wizard who works wonders with animatronics; Zoz is a computer and robotics expert; and Mike is an expert mechanical engineer. There’s a great deal of crossover, of course, which enables them to work together on a lot of things. The chemistry between them is what really makes the show work, as it does on any show, and in the episode I saw they seem to work really well together.

The problems the four tackle are really interesting, including building an inflatable car, creating the ultimate automatic alarm clock/shower/valet, and constructing a waterslide simulator. There’s even going to be one where they recreate Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, life-size. In the first episode, which is the one I saw, they have to create a system to combat road rage. I won’t spoil the show for you, but I will say that they use brainwave control technology that’s more advanced than what I’d seen before—which was awesome to watch—and they have far too much fun having a demolition derby by remote control to test their technology.

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The show isn’t without its problems, minor though they are. The video simulation of a driver in a futuristic car being automatically pulled off the road when he gets angry was shown more times than was necessary, and I thought that the show spent too much time showing them getting the cars ready for the demolition derby, considering that that was really incidental to the actual problem they were trying to solve. Those are faults that can be easily ironed out, and may for all I know be limited to the first episode.

There’s lots to like here. The four stars are very smart and lots of fun, and seem to enjoy working with one-another. They had a very good layman’s explanation of how threaded programming works (among other explanations), which isn’t a trivial concept to teach. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the hour the same way you do with MythBusters—that is, wishing someone would pay you and give you resources to do that kind of job—and you’ll thoroughly enjoy yourself.

Prototype This! will run for 13 episodes on the Discovery Channel, Wednesdays at 10pm Eastern/Pacific. Follow the jump for two video clips from the show, including one from the first episode (the spoon-bending one).

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