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 V.17 No.46 | November 13 - 19, 2008 

Idiot Box

Break Stuff

“Human Wrecking Balls” on G4

There’s a race among network executives to come up with the simplest, most reductive, so-stupid-it’s-genius television show. For these single-minded programmers of digital pabulum, dating shows, singing competitions and WWE spin-offs are far too sophisticated. These are the men and women who greenlight weekly offerings like “Yo Momma” (Wilmer Valderrama’s televised trash talk battle), “Hurl” (a show in which people eat a lot and try not to puke) and “The Tyra Banks Show.”

And yet, there is a certain Zen-like nobility in their quest to reduce the Idiot Box to its most basic elements. Who among us can argue against the purity of RFD-TV’s “Dutch Oven & Camp Cooking”? Or the mind-numbing bliss that comes from watching an episode of “Hole in the Wall”?

To this rising tide of brain-damaged programming, video game-addicted network G4 adds the spectacularly self-explanatory “Human Wrecking Balls.” The show is the brainchild (I use the word extremely loosely) of the Pumphrey brothers, Craig and Paul. The muscle-bound brethren are world record holders in something or other, and they appear to make their living smashing bricks, boards, cinder blocks, etc. into smaller bricks, boards, cinder blocks, etc. Older broheim Paul was twice crowned “World Creative Breaking Champion.” (I shit you not.) Now, how to parlay this singular talent into a television show? Simple, say producers at G4: Let this 550-pound duo act like drunken frat boys on a Friday night and mess stuff up.

Without the use of tools or safety equipment or basic common sense, how long will it take the Pumphrey brothers to reduce a car, a house or a single-engine aircraft to a pile of rubble? Not long, usually. It’s only a half-hour show. There is something undeniably entertaining about watching some meathead bodybuilder throw his body through the rear window of a muscle car in slo-mo. Or through a Sheetrock wall. Or through a plate-glass window. Or ... I think you get the idea.

With its pre-show “do not imitate” warning and its flagrant display of self-abuse, “Human Wrecking Balls” is like “Jackass” without the clever cultural subtext. (“Jackass” had a clever cultural subtext? Compared to “Human Wrecking Balls,” God yes!) G4 attempts to add some geeky Discovery Channel-like science content by having Craig and Paul consult with experts in material science and engineering to review the target of their destruction prior to each challenge. There’s talk about physics and structural engineering and the occasional architectural drawing, but it still all boils down to a dude in a wifebeater running pell-mell into some drywall.

“Human Wrecking Balls” is best viewed in an unsober state. After a season spent watching the Pumphreys bust up a house, a hotel room, an office and a nightclub, the show’s lack of creativity will become glaringly apparent. What’s left for Season 2: a restaurant, a vacation home, a maternity store, a ... um, did we do office? Who cares. Crank up the Limp Bizkit and gimme a Pabst.

“Human Wrecking Balls” airs every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on G4.

 

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