The Untold Story of the Mythbusters Episode That Got the Show Cancelled

Remember Mythbusters? Sure you do. If you were anywhere near a TV with the Discovery Channel from 2003 to 2016, you have likely seen at least part of an episode. And with 296 episodes covering more than one myth at a time, no one can deny that the lovely hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, along with their assistants Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and the late Grant Imahara sure do bust some myths. However, today, we are going to be discussing a never-before-seen episode that lead to the downfall of the show. In fact, there was so much outrage around this episode that the producers decided that it was time for the show to end permantently, rather than air it. Apparently some myths are better left unbusted.


Like any good story, we have to start at the beginning with the myth in question. Originally discovered by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in a report published in the early 2000s, once a cat hits terminal velocity, they are able to expand their bodies enough to prevent them from meeting an untimely demise. In the study, 90% of cats that fell from 5.5 to 32 stories were able to live as long as they received medical care for any injuries sustained in the fall.


From this report came a thought that spread and became a myth. The thought being that while cats can fall from upwards of 5.5 stories and from shorter distances like 1 or 2 stories, there is a middle ground where they can’t quite hit terminal velocity or catch themselves, leading to more deadly results. This was the myth that Adam and Jamie decided to try and solve on episode 297.


The episode entitled ‘Can you throw a cat off of the Empire State Building?’ has been described by test audiences as ‘an ungodly creation’ and ‘a sin of man that will never be forgiven.’ According to a select group of viewers we found who had actually seen a rough cut of the episode, it starts off normal enough with Adam and Jamie setting up the myth, using their typical fun sense of humor to lighten a somewhat dark task they have chosen to recreate. It the cuts to the rest of the team for the B myth, but no one remember it due to what came next.


After doing some initial experiments using shock scales on dummies to measure the effect of the fall, the team felt confident enough to advance to using real cats. This is where things start to get hairy, pun fully intended. Starting from 1 story, using a crane, the episode cuts to a montage of Jamie and Adam throwing cats from increasingly higher heights into the soft grass below. Each time they are sure to measure the injuries sustained to the cat and the different strategies the felines use to decrease the damage from their fall. All very scientific, of course.


But then, as Mythbusters always does, they take it way too far. After throwing cats from 1 story up all the way to 32 without any cat deaths, they decided to push the limits of the original report. Keep in mind, they’ve full busted the other myth already. Alas, like Icarus, they flew too close to the sun.


According to one audience member, this was when he started to feel a shift in the test viewers. “We all kind of glanced at our watches and were like ‘Is this really about to happen?’ But Adam and Jamie were just chatting about it on screen so nonchalantly that we just had to sit there in our anxiety. And then, well, I think you can guess what happens. It was like watching a horror documentary movie and knowing it was real only made my stomach turn sharper.”


As you can likely guess, the show cuts to Adam and Jamie going up the Empire State Building with a handful of cats. The rest is pretty indescribable, but we think you can imagine it does not end well for the cats. From what we can tell, no one actually made it to the end of the episode, everyone left the theater to get sick in the hallway rather than continue to watch.


When Discovery got wind of this, they immediately halted production of the show and would soon cancel it permanently, claiming the show had ‘run its course.’ Unfortunately, we now know the terrible truth.


I decided that I would try to reach Adam Savage on Twitter to hear his side of the story, but all he replied to my tweet asking about it was ‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat.’ Savage, indeed.

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