DISCOVERY: “How It’s Made” *****

five stars

Produced by a Canadian affiliate, How It’s Made just concentrates on what its title promises: how things are made. From ordinary devices and foodstuffs to high-tech products, whether it’s guitars, pianos, Greek pastry, soda pop, folding doors, machine and hand tools or poultry and cattle farming, How It’s Made compresses a lot of detail into a five or ten minute “process” that takes us from beginning to end of the cycle. And it’s all set to music, which I found irritating at first, but later found more like viewing production as an art form. Well, when I think about it, it is — and should be.

Taking an admirable high-road cue from golf tournament broadcast convention, perhaps, narrator Brooks Moore sequences a soft, calm professionally pleasant narrative into the video capture. The voice is always in the background. This puts the focus on the process where it belongs, not as a showcase to the excellent narrator. The video footage is so well sequenced that, for the most part, the process explains itself.

I have a friend who used to watch TV at night with the sound turned off. He can read lips, and so enjoyed this offbeat method of TV “viewing”, though it drove his wife nuts. I think to remember this here because I often watch “How It’s Made” with my eyes closed. I often “do my eyedrops”, two different prescriptions, five minutes each in both closed eyes, during evening air time of “How It’s Made”. This wouldn’t work well on most TV shows! It’s a credit to the narrative that this works so well for me on this show, especially considering the complex industrial fabrication processes being presented.

If you like tools, woodworking and finishing, metal machining and fabrication, casting and foundry, moldings and plastic injection, fiberglass, baking and food preparation, and especially if you just like “making things” or visualizing the process, you’ll really enjoy this show. Themes focus on everyday things you might see at home or work, such as the day bed or the coffee machine. Hi-tech electronics fabrication and nuclear physics are usually avoided, though a recent plain-language sequence showed how video game software is choreographed and made – the presentation was outstanding. “Really Big Things” picks up on devices and processes larger than a house, so if you want to see, say, the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, 27 kilometers in circumference — or, heck, was that Mega-Builders? In either event, Discovery has just the right size Erector Set show for you.

It might just be that the local cable people, or whoever figures out how to fill the air time slots, uses How It’s Made as filler. In my area, I always get two evening shows back to back in the 5PM-6PM half hour time slots. One weekend I think we had How It’s Made all morning. With a show like this, that’s fine with me. I could watch it all day if I didn’t have stuff to do.

I wrote earlier that the show’s presentation is smooth and professional. Underlying all that, I like the treatment of the topics. How It’s Made always eschews the gosh-all-getout-Mr.-Science, sensationalized, “this is so COOL” approach to technology [see my less than favorable review of Future Weapons]. How It’s Made takes the high road and presents the material in a matter-of-fact style that gives you the technical essentials in plain panguage, without ever getting bogged down in tangents or details. How It’s Made – check it out.

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