If you’re a fan of engineering shows like “Mythbusters,” there’s a chance you were excited upon the announcement of “The Great Escapists,” Prime Video’s new building show, starring television personalities Richard Hammond (“The Grand Tour”) and Tory Belleci (“Mythbusters”). The show features the stars after they’ve shipwrecked on a deserted island and have to use the things they find to create inventions, in hopes of improving their life on the island and helping them to escape. It seems promising, but if you’re watching the show for an entertaining way to learn more about building, you’re likely going to be disappointed.
Rather than functioning like a reality show, the scripted program skips through most of the building segments and opts for a more comedic script to portray the building process. To be sure, there are moments where the hosts explain the engineering concepts behind what they are building, like when Belleci explains how a gear with larger torque will be able to have greater pulling force, while a smaller gear will allow for greater speed. However, these moments are merely sprinkled throughout and take a backseat to the dynamic between the two hosts who bicker and joke around.
The question is, is it funny? Well, no, not unless you’re 12.
Hammond’s character is purposefully juvenile to create conflict, and his jokes include him finding a can of beans to eat while Belleci ends up with dog food. It’s not exactly content to make you laugh out loud, but at the very least it’s lighthearted. The issue is that this is meant to be the foundation the show is built upon.
The show generally requires some suspension of disbelief for the audience to truly enjoy it, because the intention of the show clearly isn’t to be realistic. Most of the narrative is pushed along by cuts to scripted interviews, with actors acting as investigators after they get rescued, leading to a narration that’s pretty lazy.
Regardless of the cheeky moments, the greatest fault of the show is the lack of emphasis on the building process, as it tends to resort to montages of building instead of actually explaining what is happening. It would be more compelling to understand the many working pieces of what they are doing, rather than cutting to the end product and only explaining a concept or two.
Ultimately, the show is elementary, and there isn’t enough drama or scientific intrigue. So while the show is palatable, “The Great Escapists” isn’t compelling enough to merit a serious watch. While viewers should be careful not to compare the show to “Mythbusters,” allowing the show the chance to take its own creative risks, it’s hard not to miss the depth with which “Mythbusters” was able to explain scientific concepts, while still keeping the show fun and entertaining.
“The Great Escapists” doesn’t hold a candle to “Mythbusters” because of how scripted it is and how much it lacks substance. Had it taken a greater chance on its audience and trusted them to take it a little more seriously, there are roots the show could have grown from. But how it is now, it’s hard not to feel a little insulted by the show’s lack of actual material, comedically, intellectually and otherwise.
Daily Arts Writer Sarah Rahman can be reached at email@example.com.