Some things are just too beautiful to stick around in this world. Cherry blossoms bloom, then quickly fall to the ground. Exquisitely detailed mandalas are made by Buddhist monks, only to be ceremonially wiped away. Andrew W.K. hosts a game show where he lets a bunch of tweens let loose on piles of smoldering wreckage to help them learn how to work together and build stuff, only to see it canceled. Ah, the simple beauty of impermanence!
Don’t remember that last one? Sadly, you might not be the only one.
Destroy Build Destroy, the show in question, premiered in 2009 as part of the Cartoon Network’s short lived “CN Real” reality show lineup, and ended in 2011. As I mentioned, the show was hosted by longtime Riot Fest favorite Andrew W.K., who brought his usual manic party energy to the proceedings. There were some variations on the central gimmick throughout the series, but the premise was basically this: two groups of three kids, divided by a shared interest (musicians vs. gamers, for example) start by deciding how two large objects—RVs, boats, etc.—get demolished. After watching the wanton acts of destruction, each team would then have to build something from whatever was left. What they build would allow them to compete in a challenge with the other team. Cash prizes were typically involved with the winner, but the real prize was getting to (re)demolish what the losing team had built.
At four seasons in two short years, Destroy Build Destroy was the most successful show in the CN Real lineup, but this wasn’t enough to keep it going. The show, and in fact the entire CN Real lineup, was scrapped. Andrew moved on to other party-friendly avenues, as he always does, and was little worse for the wear. The show, however, sank into obscurity, and is not currently streaming anywhere semi-reputable (save for a couple episodes on YouTube, as of press time).
How could this happen? Andrew’s casual fans may come and go, but he’s still got one of the most dedicated core bases in popular music. (I’ve personally seen him live in different parts of the world many times, and never without a sizable, adoring crowd.) The show’s basic idea was sound, too: kids get to show off their nerdy skill sets and learn about teamwork, and even more importantly, they get to blow stuff up or smash it with a bulldozer. Andrew’s energy, of course, is the cherry on top, a treat for kids of all ages. What’s not to love?
One can only guess at the machinations and motivations of the Cartoon Network suits, of course, but Destroy Build Destroy’s failure to catch on big can probably be chalked up mostly to timing. The largest chunk of Andrew’s fans are millennials; between the Great Recession and general social trends, much of that generation just wasn’t ready for kids in 2009, and Destroy Build Destroy was definitely a show geared more towards kids than young adults.
A show like Yo Gabba Gabba! was able to generate a cross-generational cult audience in the same timeframe because its cast and vibe was perfectly appointed to appeal to Gen X-ers and older Millennials with fond memories of Sesame Street and H.R. Pufnstuf. These adults were delighted to share a hip, now version of the shows of their youth with their kids, especially one that included 1980s/90s musical heroes like Mark Mothersbaugh, Erykah Badu, and the late, great Biz Markie. Andrew, being a bit younger, would fit in superbly in a similar milieu now that his early diehard fans are firmly into child-rearing age; I personally know more than one current parent who is just now starting to share their love of Andrew W.K. with their young children. In 2009, though, those same parents and I were still focused on sharing our love of bad Canadian whiskey.
People love Andrew W.K. because he brings a dash of party magic to everything he does. Destroy Build Destroy was perhaps not the ultimate manifestation of that magic, but it was an admirable effort to bring the party to the kids. It deserves to be remembered. Here’s hoping it becomes easy to find again soon, or even better, that Andrew gets a second chance to be a kids show host. Few were more built for the job than him.