“MythBusters” fans can now get their Build Team fix on with Netflix’s new series “White Rabbit Project,” which continues the trio’s science-entertainment adventures just in time for the holidays. It’s the kind of amusing show that you can co-view with your older/younger/dyspeptic family member with whom you may not have the best conversations, sans the unifying aid of TV.
Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara are back in fine form and as charismatic as ever, getting a strong introduction thanks to a snappy synth theme song. Unfortunately, the overall formula for the series is difficult to pull off. We don’t envy whoever had to conceive of a new science-based show to succeed “MythBusters,” which arguably had one of the simplest and yet satisfying premises in this genre: to see if certain urban myths or popularly held beliefs actually tested true in real life. Armed with a concrete result, one could then decide with full knowledge whether or not to risk consuming carbonated soda and Mentos in one sitting.
“White Rabbit Project,” however, is unconvincing in its purpose, which is to take a topic and “go down the rabbit hole” to investigate six methods of said topic and test them through builds and other experiments. Why six? Who knows? In the pilot, the only episode provided to press in advance for review, the team takes the topic “jailbreak” and proceeds to look at six different historical jailbreaks. Future topics to be examined — “superpower technology, heists, and crazy World War II weapons” — seem promising enough, and the historical aspect will appeal to history buffs.
After examining these topics, the team then scores and ranks their methods… just ‘cause. What does a No. 1 jailbreak mean? There really are no stakes for the results, and this manufactured smackdown makes for some uneven content to fill the approximately 44 minutes of programming.
Each of the historical jailbreaks that were highlighted got a different kind of dramatic reenactment, which would vary from incredibly cheesy to more elaborate and serious. From these alone, it was clear which ones would rank lower. While the goofy reenactments provided some lighthearted entertainment, they were drawn out far too long and felt like padding.
On the flip side, the more intricate and challenging jailbreaks, some with archival footage, were fascinating. In fact, one of these inspired the pyro-loving Belleci to re-create and test out the method of escape himself. Mixing demonstrable science and “stranger than fiction” scenarios like these are the show’s strengths.
The only odd note in reexamining history in this context, i.e. jailbreaks, was that there are some criminal or humanitarian aspects that had to be glossed over or outright ignored in the name of entertainment. It caused a couple uncomfortable moments while viewing.
We hope that in the spirit of the scientific method, the production continues to experiment with the show’s formula — because right now it needs some healthy troubleshooting and streamlining to make it more cohesive. More of that meaty content, please, in addition to more moments of the team members interacting. That’s another instance in which the hosts shine, because we’d like to think we all could hang out with them as friends.
“White Rabbit Project” is currently streaming on Netflix.