Owner’s Manual: AMC’s new reality series is a blast — literally

Directionally Challenged: Comic cohorts Ed Sanders and Marcus Hunt follow the instructions — or don’t — in one seriously adventurous Owner’s Manual on AMC.

In my house, we have an entire drawer filled with instruction manuals for every single object that has crossed the threshold since we moved in. Probably many things that have since crossed back out, as well. My husband is as wedded to these booklets as he is to me, but I just can’t be bothered.

Recognizing the universal nature of this “to read or not to read” conundrum, AMC created the new unscripted series Owner’s Manual, tapping Extreme Makeover: Home Edition cutup Ed Sanders and Marcus Hunt of HGTV’s Hammer Heads to embody each side of the coin. But if you’re envisioning the duo battling over how best to assemble a bookshelf, you’re not even close. Instead, the pair — Hunt representing the sticklers and Sanders throwing down (and sometimes up) for the freestylers — try to master stuff like flying stunt planes, sailing pirate ships, taking down trees and blowing up quarries.

“That’s who we are in life,” Hunt explains of his penchant for spending several days immersed in manuals and instructional videos, while his British buddy flies “by the seat of me undercrackers on the morning of the shoot,” relying only on the verbal instruction of the experts on hand. “My personality is much more analytical and I’m much more the geek. And Ed is the Herman Munster who wants to go in with fists flying.”

Owner's Manual AMC

Thanks to the duo’s “you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to, let’s disagree on how to peel it” camaraderie and stunning camera work that allows the audience to copilot their genuinely breathtaking adventures, Owner’s Manual is at once educational and sidesplitting. While Hunt sits in the comfort of a frigid Oregon logging site’s control center, Sanders discovers that there are no bathrooms in the bush. While Sanders serves as captain of a 120-ton tall ship, Hunt is first mate of a crew that follows the pair’s every order, whether it will sink the vessel or not.

“The hardest challenge we have in filming of the show is trying not to laugh,” Hunt says. “We would get into so much trouble. We’re trying so hard to be serious because we’re about to blow up a mountain — Ed is literally about to pull the trigger on a mountain — and we cannot stop laughing long enough to pull the trigger.”

Still, both men agree that the real stars of Owner’s Manual are the experts who allow them and their audience to spend a day in their shoes. “The one thing we do, and we do it very well, is that the experts in these scenarios look like experts, they sound like experts and they come across as experts,” says Hunt. “We absolutely have respect for what they do and the equipment, and it was so cool to interact with them and have them come out like heroes.”

Asked if they knew the full extent of the stuff for which they’d chosen or forgone instruction before they signed on to do the show, Sanders’ and Hunt’s dueling mindsets shine once again. “Did I think I would be doing a 5.8-G blackout turn in an airplane? I absolutely did not,” Hunt chuckles. “And I could not be more excited that I am.”

“Bear in mind Marcus’ answer is coming from the world of a single man with no kids,” cracks Sanders, who is married with three daughters and a son. “I absolutely pack my pants every single episode — if I can put that as politely as possible.”

Owner’s Manual premieres Thursday, Aug. 15 on AMC.

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
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