Spike’s new reality competition Framework pits 13 woodworkers/craftspersons against each other to be America’s Next Top Toolslinger. Hosted by Common?
The premiere episode of Spike’s new competition Framework felt more like a fourth season of the Joe Schmo Show, only this time the audience is the mark. Just about every competitive reality show cliche was trotted out, though the show tried to present itself as being the first of its kind to use the format of “[Insert Professional Trade] will battle it out for $100,000 in a series of challenges. NO ONE IS HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS.”1
Anyway. The show began with 13 contestants meeting the judges of the competition in downtown Los Angeles: accomplished furniture makers Nolan Niu and Brandon Gore, and rapper/actor/user of furniture Common. No, I’m serious. Along with providing the theme song for the show2, Common explicitly states his role is to judge pieces as a consumer. I mean, I guess that still makes him more qualified than Katie Lee Joel on the first season of Top Chef, but was this the best project available for Common?
The first challenge took a page from intro episodes of Project Runway and RuPaul’s Drag Race: using unconventional materials—in this case, scrap materials from decommissioned boats—to create a new piece of furniture and showcase their skills as designers. What followed was 20 minutes of noise and feverish editing, rivaling the intensity Fox tried to create with The X Factor. The pace of the episode was such that I thought it had switched over to a “coming up on Framework” segment and started fast-forwarding before realizing I was skipping over actual content. Oops and eh.
The judging takes place in two segments. The first is “Inspection,” where the experts and Common take measurements (42″ is a counter, 36″ is a table, for example) and check to make sure things like tabletops are attached to their legs or that a seat built for two actually supports two people. All the contestants stand around and watch as the panel makes bitchy comments for the sake of making bitchy comments. The second segment is critique, where the bitchy-for-bitchy’s-sake comments are delivered directly to each contestant, who then tries to defend the work but gets shut down by Common’s flat delivery.
After the ranking out of the cast, the panel selects a winner. There was no mention of a prize or advantage for winning, but that may come up next week. Three contestants are called out for more taunting and shaming by the panel. The contestants are able to offer their own positioning/jabs at other people’s work before each panelists verbally casts his vote. “The judges agree, [Contestant]: you’re finished.” I give that kiss-off line a B+. However, the music throughout the episode coupled with the repetition of what is at stake for the winner implied that the loser would get beaten to death with hammers by the other contestants.
Despite the awfulness of this first episode, I think the format of the show will work once the contestant pool gets smaller. With 13 contestants that’s 26 evaluations, many of which were one-liners of little substance. The bones of the show—the challenge structure and the craft being presented—are intriguing and could lead to some fascinating outcomes. There is also the hope that a Ron Swanson will emerge from the bunch, which would make this show awesome. I’m in for the time being.