When I heard that Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were going to "sponsor" a new show on Discovery Channel, I figured that it would be entertaining and educational, just like Mythbusters. I knew it couldn't possibly be as good as Mythbusters because the guys weren't going to be in the show. They just present the task for the episode and "watch" until it's time to judge the efforts.
Unchained Reaction at first sounded like an awesome idea because everyone enjoys seeing Rube Goldberg machines and even the Mythbusters had created one for the holiday season one year and showed how hard it can be to get it to work correctly. However, the official definition of a Rube Goldberg machine is that it's an overly complex invention used to perform a simple operation. If you've ever played the board game Mousetrap, you've used a Rube Goldberg machine. Many cartoons throughout the years have shown Rube Goldberg machines for everything from waking a sleeping person to peeling a banana. They're fun to see and even more fun to try to create in your mind. Youngest Son keeps telling me he wants to make one. I discourage him only because (1) he doesn't really have a task for it to perform and (2) I'm afraid of the damage it will cause my house.
The new show, however, doesn't give the teams a specific task to perform. There's a theme for the program -- such as heavy-versus-light and fire-and-ice -- but no ending operation that has to be completed. That would make sense on why they don't refer to the contraptions that are built as Rube Goldberg machines. The teams are given five days and the same materials with which to make their contraptions. When I saw the previews, I thought they'd be competing to see which could complete the task in the most inventive way. They are judged on their inventiveness, but without the common task at the end, it's just not as thrilling. Well, it's not as thrilling to me, anyway.
Rube Goldberg machines have become more and more popular recently. As mentioned above, the Mythbusters completed a very complex one for their show. The band OK Go made a music video that incorporated a large Rube Goldberg machine that assisted in playing some of the music and giving the "big finale" at the end. Some companies are even putting them into their commercials as entertainment and to stimulate consideration of their product, as if they could design one then their product must be just as ingenious.
However, watching two groups trying to sift through a pile of junk to create a "machine" which doesn't perform an actual operation other than to have one gag trigger another isn't quite as interesting. In the premiere episode, they paired-off a group of electrical engineers and a movie set/prop construction team. Right from the beginning it was obvious who was going to win. The winning team had the advantage of practical building experience, a firm understanding of what Jamie and Adam wanted to see, and the ability to work together. (Hope I didn't spoil it for you if you didn't see it.)
Maybe the next episode will be better. But if they can't get them to have a reason for the machines or at least show more of the building and less talking about what Adam and Jamie are "watching" (it's SO obvious they're not "tuning-in" via their laptop), then I don't know if I'll be able to watch the whole series. And that will be quite disappointing.
I'll give it another shot next week. For now, I'll just look forward to the season premier of Mythbusters as they have their "Duct Tape Island" episode.