Did they remix the theme song? It’s about the only thing I didn’t like from tonight…
“Good lord, these people are all jackasses,” is something I texted to Mike last night after watching the season eight premiere of Face Off on SyFy.
Ten minutes after, having switched over to Framework on Spike. C’mon, this is Face Off, one of the least dramatic, most skill-based, nearly completely devoid-of-manufactured-conflict reality shows out there. Last season I witnessed – get this – competitors actually helping one another finish solo projects. And the runners up were genuinely complimentary about the winner. It’s a strange new world.
I’ll never understand why producers feel the need to muddy some waters with BS conflicts or ‘personalities'1 especially when the skills alone are worth tuning in for, wombat. And the skills on display here are well worth it: while the basic steps are usually the same – sketch, sculpt, mold, paint, repeat – it’s hard not to get drawn in by the behind-the-scenes nature of the production. Plus you don’t have to care one iota about sci-fi/fantasy/horror to appreciate the legitimate artistry on display every episode. Most of this stuff just looks cool.
This season brings a new arrangement with competitors2 split into three teams each coached by a previous Face Off champion. There’s some standard ‘Oo the stakes are high for everyone now!’ stuff at the top, but honestly I’m not sure what this new setup does other than having more group challenges early on. If anything, I’d be worried that the ‘you’re playing for yourself, and your team, and your coach!’ conceit could unintentionally manufacture some unneeded drama. The regular coaching, instead of quick drop ins by experts and guest judges in the past, is a nice touch, although everyone is going to have to watch out for too many cooks.
A big thing to like about Face Off, as compared to some other competition reality shows,3 is the general fullness of episodes – so full, in fact, that the premiere doesn’t include an elimination. It generally takes a few episodes for the pool to narrow and things to settle down on any competition show, but Face Off keeps the momentum high throughout later episodes with plenty of things for the contestants to do and the audience to watch. I only stumbled on to Face Off last season, but was blown away to find out it was season 7 and they were still coming up with interesting challenges, tasks, wrinkles, and variations.
Low on fluff, high on skill, and generally sans reality show personalities, Face Off remains a great show to watch. Hopefully the restructuring doesn’t impede our watching – and isn’t a sign that the show is running low on ideas. I’ll check in around episode four to let y’all know how it goes.