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.