Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Men of the Discovery Channel

Here's what I love about the Discovery Channel: I can spend an entire Saturday afternoon sprawled out on the couch, eating cookies and watching Mythbusters and totally justify it because it's "educational television." Also, the box of cookies I ate was low-fat, so I can justify that too. (And no, quantity doesn't matter when they're low-fat. No, really, it's true. I learned it on TV.)

For my money, no one gives me better bang for my nerd buck than the Discovery Channel. Week after week, they provide me with compulsively addictive television that expands my knowledge of completely worthless facts -- and I mean that as a total compliment.

Take Mythbusters, for example. The two hosts, Jamie and Adam, go out and try to prove or disprove popular urban myths. As a result of blowing things up or building hovercrafts or trying to break out of prison with salsa, they teach their audience some pretty cool things. For example, I like to know that vodka won't kill bees. It will only make them drunk -- and Russian. I like to know, too, that if someone shoots at me while I'm swimming, the water will slow the bullet. And I like to know that even though it looks really cool, you shouldn't try to ride a giant inflatable raft out of an airplane in mid-flight.

I also like to spend considerable time during the commercial breaks wondering which of the two hosts, Jamie or Adam, would be more fun to be trapped on a deserted island with. Obviously, we would not be trapped for very long because they both could build turbine engines with coconuts and gliders with palm fronds and engineer our great escape within hours of arrival, but still, I wonder. (I'm pretty sure the answer is Adam.)

Another great afternoon killer is Man vs. Wild, although I will admit that when host Bear Gryll starts whining about being disoriented and dehydrated and lost, I start rooting for "Wild" to win. The basic premise of the show is that Bear gets dropped into the middle of a desolate, rough environment with no gear, no tools and "nothing but his wits" and then has five days in which to get himself back to civilization. Um, also they drop him there with a camera guy carrying some Snickers and a cell phone, but he's not allowed to help unless Bear is actually being eaten by something. As much as Bear grates on my nerves sometimes (not even the British accent can save him), the scenery is gorgeous and I have learned a lot of fascinating survival skills that will come in handy if I ever venture beyond the interstate. For example, you can build yourself a warm bed in the wilderness by making a fire, putting rocks in the fire and then burying the rocks with sand. It's like nature's little chunky, electric blanket -- it's going to rearrange your vertebrae by morning, but it'll keep you toasty.

The very best way to spend a weekend with Discovery though is to spend it with Mike Rowe, the tall, funny opera singing host of Dirty Jobs. If you've never seen the show, it involves Mike taking on filthy tasks like collecting garbage from underground storm gutters, vivisecting dead whales, working on a methane-powered farm or scampering around in sewers. While the set-up of the show is great, it's really Rowe with his stunted gag reflex and ability to make even the most disgusting tasks look bearable who makes the show what it is. And when his job is really, really bad, he lets you know. Whether it's bitching at the woman who raised ill-behaved monkeys in Africa or the dudes who taught him to hunt for catfish by shoving his hand into dark underwater holes, Mike's not above unleashing the snark on people. And for that I love him. And for giving me three such entertaining, mind-expanding, ridiculously addictive shows, I love the Discovery Channel, too.


Steve B said...

I still call shennangins on Man vs. Wild. Some of the footage is clearly staged. There he is starting to climb a tough rock wall and there are 8 different camera angles as he does it. Nope. Not going to happen.

Liz said...

Yeah, it is a little suspicious. But you've got to admit that warmed rock thing is pretty impressive.

--R&L said...

Survivorman vs. Man vs. Wild...


The equipment: Bear wins on this one. He's got less to work with, at least for the episodes I've seen. Survivorman Les Stroud gets to cannibalize a bike or something like that.

The solitude: As has been mentioned, Bear has camera crew with him to make everything pretty, while Les has to set up and schlep all the camera equipment himself. Winner: Les.

The whining: They both lose. "Wahh wahh, I'm all alone and cold and it sucks." And you're getting paid to be alone, and you're choosing to do so. Shut up. Save the whining for Christopher McCandless... though that was sort of his own fault too, so I say we should mandate that all hikers have enforced quiet time.

The duration: Les just hunkers down for a week before getting picked up again, while Bear tries to find civilization so he can rescue his own damn self. The smart thing to do is hunker down, but as James Kim's family can attest, the human nature is to start walking. So I'm giving Bear the nod for this one, as I'd rather have survival tips for what I'd most likely end up doing.

Of course, survival tips for what I'd really likely end up doing would be along the lines of "Dude, Pizza hut has WAY too much grease! Go for Mountain Mike's instead; plus, they deliver so you can stay on the couch for another 45 minutes!" *ahem*

Anthony Bourdain impression: Bear, for drinking what most people would refuse to use for fertilizer.

Overall winner would be Man vs. Wild... and yeah, the English accent does make the guy look cooler. English accents make everything cooler. It would be pretty damn groovy if that actor from House had an accent too, but I don't know if he could pull it off.


Liz said...

Hey R&L (I mean, Silver) -- nice to see you here! Brilliant Survivorman vs. Man vs. Wild analysis! And I do wish that Hugh Laurie had some sort of "accent" or somethin', at least then he'd be doing something instead of just acting in American. Lazy bum. :-)