The Merits of Thinking Ahead Vs. Winging It


"Owner's Manual," a clever and addictive new TV series on AMC, examines the great divide that exists between two types of men.

There are those who read the instructions before assembling or using appliances, electronics and machinery - and there are those who defiantly won't.

Co-host Marcus Hunt of HGTV's "Hammer Heads" represents those who read the book all the way through (or at least bits and pieces of it). The other co-host, Ed Sanders of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," is the champion for those who believe they never need help.

May the best man win _ except it's worth noting that "Owner's Manual" increases the stakes exponentially.

The challenges aren't anything as routine as installing garage door openers or using jackhammers. Hunt and Sanders must pilot a stunt plane, drive a 142-ton locomotive and handle explosives.

We talked with the fearless duo last week about the show.

Q. Each of you is adamant that your way is the right way. How did you wind up with your particular philosophy?

Hunt: I've always been a techie-geek, take-things-apart, put-things-together type. I'm very detail-oriented. I like to research things. If I don't know something, I'm going to read about it and learn about it. I most definitely read the manuals for everything we did on the show. If they didn't have a hard-copy manual, I would go online and research videos. I've been that way my whole life.

Sanders: Back home in London, my father had his own fueling company. So I'd always be driving diggers or cranes or dump trucks, but there was never an owner's manual. If something would break down, my dad was the type who would want you to keep working, so you had to get out and fix the bloody thing yourself. So you would have to MacGyver it to get it working again. So I learned to handle things by the seat of my undercrackers, something my esteemed co-host absolutely hates.

Hunt: But I have to be honest. He gets further than I thought a Neanderthal like Ed could.

Q. Why do each of you think the other is the crazy one?

Sanders: Because Marcus' philosophy is flawed. There could be a zombie apocalypse. Let's say he ends up at an airfield. He escaped, yet he's being chased by hordes of zombies. How the heck is he going to have time to read a manual to fly a plane? He's got to act. If he doesn't get in that bloody thing and push and pull as many buttons and levers as possible until he gets off the ground, he's doomed.

Hunt: I'm going to stick with Ed's zombie apocalypse scenario. He can't just get in the plane and press buttons and hope for the best. He won't even figure out the X, Y and Z of getting the plane started and off the ground unless he takes at least a few seconds to look at the instructions.

Sanders: I'm not going to turn this into a shouting match with my esteemed associate. But when he reads the manual, he actually does look like a zombie. He stands there dribbling and drooling.

Q. Will there be a clear winner over the course of eight episodes?

Hunt: It differs from show to show. I went in thinking, "How can you even begin to understand and operate these machines without manuals?" Ed blew my expectations of what a non-manual person could do. Things like flying the airplane: I read everything, I understood how to do a loop, I knew the mechanics behind it, I knew the angles. But when you get in that airplane and the G-forces kick in, all of that went out the window and you just kind of had to feel it. In that situation, Ed has a better feel for how it should feel.

Sanders: Could you do me a favor? Make a point in this interview that my esteemed co-host paid me a very nice compliment. That doesn't happen often.

Q. What were your favorite challenges?

Sanders: It's tough because we had eight great episodes, but for me it was the brewery in Hawaii. We actually made beer. The show was, "Do you need a manual to make beer, yes or no?" I'm not going to tell how that worked out. Suffice it to say that Marcus did have a slight problem brewing beer.

Hunt: For me, it had to be the tall ship. They threw us into the mix with a 136-foot, 120-ton tall ship with these massive sails in the middle of the night with the waves crashing over the bow. It was cold, it was rainy, it hailed, and it was one of the most epic adventures I've ever been on.

Sanders: Again, this is where we differ. His favorite episode scared the pants off me. Because we had a crew of 10 qualified sailing people who listened and followed every bloody thing we told them. Even if it was wrong! So we ripped a sail and we've got the boat leaning in the water at 60 degrees. It was insane.



10 p.m. EDT Thursday


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