‘MythBusters’ misfires with cannonball stunt


A police officer stands near the exit hole of a cannonball in a second-story wall after it traveled through a home in Dublin, Calif., on Tuesday. The cannonball was misfired during the taping of an episode of the Discovery Channel show "MythBusters" at the Alameda County Bomb Disposal Range. (Doug Duran/Associated Press)
December 7, 2011

“MythBusters,” a reality series we now know is a darling of conservative Republicans, decided this week to bust a few myths in the San Francisco Bay Area (that epicenter of liberalism) by firing a cannonball that crashed into a house, tore through an occupied bedroom, careened across a six-lane highway, skimmed another house and then attacked a minivan, which surrendered immediately.

It all started when those smarty-pants at “MythBusters” were trying to make some point or other about homemade cannons — we hope a point such as, “Never ever shoot a homemade cannon within 10 miles of a residential area” — by firing a homemade cannon at large containers of water, which were supposed to absorb the impact.

They missed.

Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications, whose Discovery Channel brings you “MythBusters,” was quick to note that the show is produced for Discovery Channel by a company called Beyond Productions; that it was filming on a closed set at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office bomb range in the San Francisco area; that Sgt. J.D. Nelson, public information officer and bomb technician for the sheriff’s office and “a regular safety explosives expert” for the show, “was on site”; and that “all proper safety protocol was observed.”

Unfortunately, Discovery acknowledged, “during the testing, a cannonball took an unforeseen bounce from a safety berm.”


Discovery Channel's “MythBusters” hosts, Jamie Hyneman, left, and Adam Savage. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

And by “unforeseen bounce,” Discovery means that the cannonball — which was between softball and cantaloupe in size, according to various reports — missed the water vats and blew through a cinder-block wall late Tuesday afternoon.

Then, according to news reports and statements from the sheriff’s office, the errant cannonball stormed off the set and headed over to a residential neighborhood, bounced off a sidewalk, tore through someone’s front door, zipped up the stairs and through an occupied bedroom, blew out the back of the house, blasted over a six-lane thoroughfare and skimmed the top of another house, before brutally attacking a parked Toyota minivan.

So cannonballs can bounce. Another myth busted!

The bomb-disposal range has been shuttered while its safety procedures are reviewed. No one was hurt in the made-for-TV science experiment.

Discovery says that Beyond Productions also is “assessing the situation and working with those whose property was affected.”

Naturally, when word of the “unforeseen bounce” got out, SFGate.com was interested in what the show’s two hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, thought about the errant cannonball. The paper reached Savage, who is quoted as saying “I can’t talk right now,” before hanging up.

‘Anderson’ renewed

Allbritton’s television stations have renewed Telepictures’ new Anderson Cooper talk show, “Anderson,” for a second season. Those stations include Washington’s ABC affiliate, WJLA, which gave “Anderson” our city’s plum “Oprah” time slot — weekdays at 4 p.m.

It’s unclear whether “Anderson” will air in the time slot when it returns on WJLA in the fall.

WJLA recently bought Katie Couric’s new daytime talk show, which will debut in the fall. Disney, which is producing that show, hopes Couric will become the new Oprah.

According to a source who has knowledge of the situation, the Allbritton “Anderson” renewal deal includes “9 to 6” wording, meaning the show must air some time in that range — no late-night or crack-of-dawn time slots allowed. But there’s talk that the show might be moved to 3 to make room for “Katie” at 4, creating an interesting “Anderson”/“Katie” block.

CNN’s Holmes to join BET

T.J. Holmes is leaving CNN and joining BET, the latter announced Wednesday afternoon.

“We look forward to weaving T.J.’s mixture of credibility and charisma into our fabric,” Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials, said in the announcement.

The deal calls for Holmes to anchor “a new show on BET, as well as content on BET.com,” the Viacom-owned network said.

Holmes has been anchoring the weekend edition of “CNN Newsroom.”

Based in the network’s Atlanta headquarters, Holmes joined CNN in October 2006. At CNN, he has anchored numerous major breaking-news stories, including coverage of the tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Mo.; last year’s gulf oil spill; the Virginia Tech shooting; the terrorist attacks at the Glasgow Airport; and Saddam Hussein’s execution.

Holmes also embedded with troops being trained to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan for the network’s series “War Before the War.” Holmes secured some of the first stories from the survivors of the US Airways Flight 1549 that crash-landed in the Hudson River in January 2009.

“It’s now upon us to develop vehicles that capture his intelligence, curiosity about the world, warmth, humor and compassion,” Hill said. “It’s a challenge that we are happy to have.”

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