Chris Atchison/Metro Toronto
It’s many boys’ dream come true — holding down a job where you get to build very cool things then revel in destroying them when they don’t work — or, for that matter, even if they do.
There are likely a lot of grown-up guys who long to be in Matt Hunter and Jeremy MacPherson’s professional position, as well. It’s easy to see why.
Hunter, a master carpenter, and MacPherson, an amateur historian and special effects artist who has worked on films such as X-Men, Resident Evil and Chicago, take crazy old inventions and attempt to build them to their original specs using materials as close to those prescribed by the original designer as possible.
The show is similar to The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, but with a sharper historical edge and even wilder creations.
“It’s fun to live through (us),” Hunter says. “It’s not easy to go out and make a flying catapult on your own. But watching that on TV, to me is like me watching them build a massive bridge in Korea. It’s captivating.”
In their second season hosting the show, Toronto-based Hunter and MacPherson have (or soon will have) “re-invented” some bizarre and even highly practical devices such as the solar crematorium — a rather grisly way to dispose of corpses using the sun’s rays — an Islamic windmill for grinding grain, a human-powered tank designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and a very dangerous double-barrelled cannon (cannon balls tied together by a chain).
Needless to say, their endeavours should NEVER be attempted at home. Even they admit that even with many safety precautions implemented to protect the entire crew, small accidents still happen.
“A lot of (the inventions) we did this year were really dangerous,” MacPherson explains. “Half of them are like giant bombs. (The show’s producers) give us a laundry list of stuff and we tell them what’s plausible.”
Not everything is, nor does every invention work.
Take Season 2’s re-invention of the Second World War-era panjandrum, basically a rocket-propelled, explosive-filled wheel designed by British scientists to crack through German defences on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 1944.
Spoiler alert!! — Hunter and MacPherson discovered, as British scientists had more than six decades earlier, that the device simply didn’t pack the propulsion punch needed to propel it up the steep cliffs that greeted Allied invaders that fateful day. Their hard work in building the device — and the two career tradesmen are very hands-on in the assembling of their re-inventions, they remind — was extinguished in mere seconds when they detonated the rolling explosive, far short of the mock German bunkers they recreated for the episode.
“There is an amazing release when you work on something and see it explode,” MacPherson says with a glean in his eye that only a boy-at-heart can appreciate.
Season 2 of The Re-Inventors debuts Saturday at 6 p.m. on History Television.
Chris Atchison has been working as a journalist for the past seven years in both freelance and full-time capacities. A Guy Thing, his take on the everyday travails of the urban male, runs biweekly.