The White Rabbit Project is a long-awaited revival of the critically-acclaimed Mythbusters TV Show. The producers had hoped to start fresh, while catering to newer fans and the decades-old fans of Mythbusters.
The result? It’s an exciting, millenial-targetted historical tv show that quickly burrows its core audiences in confusion.
Why are we writing about the White Rabbit Project? Because it can teach us something valuable for our online businesses.
Let’s take a look at Mythbusters first, then examine why White Rabbit Project fails to satisfy an already-established audience from the Adam and Jamie-led original…and then what it all means for you.
The Success of the Mythbusters Formula
In the original show, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tori Belleci put myths to the test with a scientifically inspired method: take an educated guess, construct a way to test the myth, then review the results.
The myth deemed proven by their process was pronounced “confirmed” and the one disproven, “busted”.
The show was simple, informative and brimming with friendly banter, as the cast set out to build crazy inventions and test them in real life.
Over the course of 282 episodes, the fanbase grew exponentially. But by the final couple of seasons, things took a turn for the worse as audience interest appeared to wane. The production company reportedly fired Grant, Kari and Tori to save on production costs. Soon, the young trio went on to join the White Rabbit Project show.
Meanwhile, lovable and hilarious Jamie and Adam were left finishing up the grand finale myths without the young cast.
So why are we writing about Mythbusters and the newly released first season of White Rabbit Project? Because it can teach us something valuable for our online businesses:
- Less is More. The White Rabbit Project has too many ideas. Instead of focusing on a single topic, each episode tries to carry 6 topics. This results in a lot of methodology inconsistencies – animated and historical reinactment segments, interviews and talking bits in place of building and real experimenting.
- Know What Your Audience Expects. The fans of Mythbusters have firm expectations about what a “revival” of Mythbusters is supposed to be like. Just like the recent Gen 2 Pokemon Go release bungled by Niantic labs, the production company of WRP didn’t gage the expectation of fans…or if they did, didn’t listen carefully to what they enjoyed about Mythbusters.
- Don’t Fix it If it Isn’t Broken. Mythbusters had pretty much everything- friendly banter, great experiments, even shows based on audience suggestions. Although ratings dipped during the final few seasons of Mythbusters, Discovery Channel still gets a good viewership of the original Mythbusters reruns, even into late 2016.
Less is More
White Rabbit Project’s first season has 10 episodes. Each episode begins with a somewhat lengthy movie clip that feels like a low production movie intro. Although some are humorous, these clips take up too much of the show.
- White Rabbit Project should greatly reduce the “setup movies” for each episode and instead focus on Grant, Kari and Tori building things and proving them.
- White Rabbit Project should use only 1 topic instead of 6 for each episode. This will make it easier on the research staff, too!
- White Rabbit Project shouldn’t have an arbitrary voting criteria that is based merely on opinion. We still can’t make sense of it after 10 episodes!
- White Rabbit Project should reduce the emphasis on “being cool” and instead focus on the actual science they want to apply. The fancy techno and flashy cars mean nothing if the substance is lacking.
Know What Your Audience Expects
The audience that followed Mythbusters over the course of hundreds of hours of viewing isn’t a minority audience. It’s the majority audience and the most vocal audience; they’ve vicariously related to the cast for so long, it would be foolish to ignore what they enjoyed in the original show.
But that’s just what happened: producers wanted to make something that departs from the original series enough that it would go viral and grab younger audiences. They did so, whilst almost completely leaving their huge, vocal subscriber audience of Mythbusters fans behind.
Their assumption might have been: ” the Mythbusters show needs to be revived for a newer generation with younger people at the fore-front “.
But what did the fans expect? The same familiar format: myth to test, a hypothesis, build to test the myth and watch the explosions of results. Perhaps a bigger budget-polish or a new cast member to the original cast including Adam and Jamie.
Don’t Fix it If It Isn’t Broken
TV Shows aren’t online businesses, but just like online businesses they can experience dips. We have websites that aren’t regular earners – they dip and then rise again. It’s the natural ebb and flow of visitors. With TV Shows that are long-running, you can’t expect viewers to be raving and drooling to see the next episode. It doesn’t work that way, for the greater majority of TV Shows.
Instead, just as with Seinfeld and many others, viewerships ebb and flow. Priorities in life change. Families undergo transitions and people’s interests transform. So we believe Mythbusters could have taken a hiatus and returned with a simple “2” added to the original name, say, after 2 years. The original audiences would have gotten small peeks at the new myths, while waiting patiently for the new show.
Then when the new show is released, fans would be primed to see their favorite cast of Mythbusters. Even with only a little bit of polish and cool new myths, the original formula would have worked – even for millenials!
What Keeps it Together
It turns out, despite a sizable filming budget for White Rabbit Project, the thing that keeps the show together for fans of Mythbusters isn’t the topics or the new format; it’s the actors themselves – Tori, Kari and Grant! That’s right, it’s not extravagant setups or stunts that make the show, it’s the people and how they interact.
- Familiar elements are more interesting to the original fans. When Tori was building a speed racer for one of the final episodes this season, it felt like the original mythbusters formula again. It was exciting to see them build!
- Familiar faces. Fans have grown used to Tori, Kari and Grant. It makes sense to put them on-screen doing what they used to do: building things, testing things and talking about these things.
So why did we write about White Rabbit Project?
We’re fans of the original tv series ourselves, and felt there was a lot to learn from this akward direction producers took for White Rabbit Project. For those of you with your own projects, the take-away is this:
- Simplify. What can I do to make it simpler while keeping the things that are familiar for my most vocal, dedicated visitors?
- Keep What Works. What about my project is, to my most vocal visitors, the thing that brings them back? Keep it and don’t change it!
- Know Your Audience. If you can respect what you know about your audience and use it to their advantage – to enlighten, entertain, educate or service – you’ll find your visitors will stick!