There’s plenty to love about White Rabbit Project, the new science and technology-focused documentary series on Netflix starring MythBusters alums Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara. The show’s focus on narrative investigations of real-world ideas (as opposed to testing half-truths) offers fans something new to chew on while they binge-watch all 10 episodes. Yet as an early scene between Belleci and Byron demonstrates in the first episode, “Super Power Tech,” the trio’s social dynamics haven’t changed at all. In other words, longtime MythBusters viewers still get to watch the latter torture the former.
“I don’t trust you,” admits a somewhat nervous Belleci after sitting down for dinner with Byron. Turns out their “private” meeting at an Italian restaurant is “going to be completely filmed and on the show.” Why? Because Byron and the Backyard Brains gang will use the scene to demonstrate cutting-edge neuroscience behind what comic book geeks would call “mind control.” Ergo the various electrodes attached to the pair’s arms and faces, which allows Byron to “hijack” Belleci’s motor neurons and control certain muscle movements.
What results is a scene straight out of MythBusters‘s heyday, when the build team members often found themselves on the targeting range of the show’s latest contraption. (Especially Tory, whose bloody fall during the 2010 episode “Soda Cup Killer” epitomized the many terrible things that befell him.) “Tory and I are friends off camera, so I torture him even when you’re not seeing it,” says Byron. “I was laughing so hard. So was the camera crew — so much that the cameras were shaking because they couldn’t keep them steady from laughing. It’s my favorite combination of things — hilarity, torturing Tory, and fun. Pretty much the pinnacle of my television career.”
Yet White Rabbit Project isn’t just another excuse for Byron to embarrass her friend and colleague on camera. For as she, Belleci and Imahara revealed in a series of telephone conversations with us, the mind control gag and other segments like it fostered what felt like a giant family reunion. But, you know, with mind control.
“Many of the same producers and crew members we worked with on MythBusters were there for White Rabbit Project,” explains Belleci. “It felt very much like a family again. There wren’t really any of those awkward moments where everyone is trying to get to know everybody else and figure stuff out. We already knew our roles, so it was really easy to jump back in.”
Imahara, who spends most of “Super Power Tech” building a “freeze ray” and dropping puns that would make even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin would wince, couldn’t agree more. “When you work with someone for 10 years then take a short break, it’s like no time has passed at all when you get back together,” he says, adding: “It’s the best possible family reunion you could imagine, minus all the talk about politics and religion. It’s rare in this business to be able to develop a rapport with a group of people, have that come to an end, then be able to work with them again on a totally different project. I’m thankful that we’re able to pull that off.”
“Totally different” is right, as White Rabbit Project is by no means a MythBusters spin-off series. Perhaps the greatest distinction is the format, which eschews the predecessor’s penchant for testing mythical devices. Instead the new series devotes its resources and talent to exploring actual, down-to-earth technologies with one of the oldest narrative frameworks in the television playbook: storytelling. Each of White Rabbit Project‘s 10 thematic episodes organizes itself around a competition between Byron, Belleci and Imahara, who investigate their own related subjects via reenactments, recounts and the occasional build. When the three reunite at the end to compare notes, they determine whose story takes the cake.
“We felt like we wanted to keep it in the same world of weird stories and technology, but with a different approach,” says Belleci. “It dives into these stories from pop culture and history to figure out what’s really going on. What’s the truth behind it all, what’s the technology looking like now, and what’s it going to look like in the future? We felt it best for each of us to take on a different story, which would allow us to cover more territory.”