But no more big group challenges, please?
The big change on season 8 of SyFy’s Face Off was splitting the contestants into three teams of five, each coached by a previous season champ. This led to a large, two-creature challenge for each team at the start. Which led to the surprise addition of a third creature1 for each team at the top of episode two. Which led to the inevitable stumbles of both makeup-making and cameras trying to capture everything as five people plus one coach dividing their attention across three effects times three teams meant no one likes doing math while watching TV, least of all the producers.
All this was ultimately a minor hiccup. One contestant was fairly sent packing after his rushed mold job left two of his team’s creatures with blobby, undefined hands.2 Episode three saw the remaining 14(!) contestants paired randomly and trying to create Hunger Games-esque predators that hybridized a dangerous animal and an exotic plant. Some teams absolutely nailed this, producing screen-worthy sculptings and freaky good paint jobs. The episode still suffered from some needless ‘story’ inclusion, but the designs that wound up on top are absolutely worth a look.
As some pairs inevitably crossed teams, the coaches were working with one another as much as with their contestants. I’m still not sure where they’re going with the team concept; if it remains a vague reason to have a coach focus on particular contestants, I’m all for it. Everyone can benefit from coaching – that’s what makes Mr. Westmore’s drop-ins each week a legitimately interesting part of each episode. I am curious to see what happens as the field continues to winnow – a process that helps Face Off just as much as any talent-based reality show. Does the last person on a given coach’s team gain a weird advantage as their coach is only working with them?
If there’s one holdover from seasons past that still gets me it’s how things look during the reveals. Makeup effects like these would be shot and lit very differently when actually in use. I get that. I also get that the producers and camera crews have selected a short list of angles – front, profile, 3/4, sometimes a back or closeup if there’s detail to display – to keep things moving both on set and in our living rooms. But every episode there are one or two looks that get lost, details that the judges note that I can’t see for squat.
A small quibble, really, given the talent that’s on display. Face Off remains a great look inside a particular craft, and a generally drama-free piece of weekly television.