Best episodes from before they got big?
April 28, 2011 8:37 PM   Subscribe

TVFilter: What are some of the best episodes from before some big shows got big? Things like Mythbusters, Top Gear, and Planet Earth have big budgets now, but five, ten, or twenty years ago, these nonfiction-type shows probably had some classic episodes that are unlikely to be shown today but full of bootstrapped goodness.

To be clear, I'm not just looking for Mythbusters and Top Gear, but any popular documentary/nonfiction/semi-scripted type shows that perhaps have some of their best episodes behind them. Surely you have a favorite from Season 1 or 2 of shows now in their 10th season or more. Care to share? (apologies if this is too broad)
posted by BlackLeotardFront to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Both This Old House and New Yankee Workshop used to be much more low key and simple. They were explicitly 'Do It Your self' and 'Do It Cheaply'. I remember especially the projects in NYW didn't require much more then a table saw and a hand drill, now they want you have all sorts of fancy expensive stuff like a paint booth and a oscillating spindle sander.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:03 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think "The Secret Life of Machines" ever got big, but they had great animations and home-made props. All on-line here.
posted by Marky at 9:13 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is just off the top of my head and I don't have any links, but MST3K used to be a public-access show. You might be able to find some (even lower) low budget recordings from their early days somewhere on the intertubes.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:59 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you like home repair shows, HGTV Canada's Holmes on Homes has some pretty epic episodes from the early days. When it first got started it was pretty much Mike Holmes, a few assistants, and a camera operator. Both HGTV Canada and HGTV US show early episodes as part of long episode marathons.

"I've seen enough and I've decided to tear it all down." Hehehe.
posted by fireoyster at 11:20 PM on April 28, 2011

The Woodwright's Shop is a nice contrast to TOH NYW because Roy Underhill uses all hand tools. Always was a low-key show and still is, but more of a love of wood kind of vibe than bootstrapping a show on a tiny budget.
posted by morganw at 11:27 PM on April 28, 2011

MST3K used to be a public-access show. You might be able to find some (even lower) low budget recordings from their early days somewhere on the intertubes.

It is pretty easy to find online. It's interesting to see the differences of the early production, but back then, they didn't script out their jokes during the movie, so all in all it's not nearly as entertaining. Lots of dead air.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:06 AM on April 29, 2011

The 'old' Top Gear was much more about information than entertainment, as this 1983 episode exemplifies.
posted by misteraitch at 3:03 AM on April 29, 2011

"Stinky Car" from the first season of Mythbustes is pretty epic. The early ones were really quite different from what they have now: there was a academic-type person who talked about the history of the myth, Adam and Jamie did everything, and they showed a lot more of the building process including going to suppliers looking for stuff. And the show was edited as 2 or 3 segments, instead of all mixed up like it is today.
posted by smackfu at 6:10 AM on April 29, 2011

In the very early days of The Jerry Springer Show—before they found out they get better ratings with the "poke the guests with sticks until they fight" format—Jerry did serious episodes from time to time. One in particular that sticks in my mind is when Jerry went and spent a night on the streets with a homeless teen.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:15 AM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: Great suggestions, guys, thanks a lot.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:55 AM on April 29, 2011

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