Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
2 out of 5 stars
With crumbling towers, giant metal cranes being blown to smithereens and 10-story buildings toppling to the ground, the opening credits of “The Detonators” are far more interesting than the actual show.
Each episode of “The Detonators” follows work crews in several locations as they prepare to demolish structures using explosives. Shots of men in fluorescent vests taping dynamite to abandoned buildings are interspersed with explosives experts — Dr. Braden Lusk and Dr. Paul Worsey — performing experiments in an outdoor engineering lab to demonstrate the theory of how nitroglycerin placement affects how quickly a building is demolished.
Let’s face it: Most people tuning in to watch “Detonators” are doing so to see things blow up. This means the show has to create a backstory interesting enough to hold a viewer’s attention for nearly an hour, since the destruction of a building takes place in roughly 10 seconds. As a result, elements of drama are forced. Will fragments of the abandoned hotel in Bermuda slide down a hill post-explosion, destroying the town beneath? Will a Texas lake lift bridge fall forward, blocking a shipping channel? While sort of important, these problems don’t make for compelling television. The contrivance of these obstacles is underscored by the fact that nothing ever seems to go wrong.
A dearth of compelling content isn’t the only issue with “Detonators.” The show doesn’t have a point — that makes it difficult to get invested in. The series presents a lot of information in a dry matter without a human angle. Dozens of workers and technicians are present in each episode, but few make repeat appearances or are interviewed on camera. Lusk and Worsey are blandly competent as they talk about the complicated scientific processes behind each project, but there are no vivid characters that can make technical subjects like borehole placement come alive.
The show’s heavy emphasis on applied science is dense, repetitive and uninteresting. Who’s interested in the physics behind post-tension slabs or the mathematical formula used to calculate the shape of the wedge that must be removed from a tower so dynamite can be placed in it? Perhaps to simplify the often-complicated explanations and computer simulations that are shown — or to make the show long enough — the same graphics and concepts are repeated over and over in the course of a single episode. Either way, it’s annoying.
While there is undoubtedly a compelling way to present large-scale explosions and delve into the lives of the people responsible for them, “Detonators” doesn’t find it. While the show isn’t offensively bad, its attempts to legitimize watching things blow up by surrounding them with uninteresting scientific explanations and pedestrian interviews creates an uninspired, plodding hour of programming. Television is like demolitions; a spark is necessary for anything to happen. The creators of “The Detonators” apparently aren’t aware of that fact.