When a reality competition show has been on for a few seasons, the viewing experience could become a little tired. Challenges become repetitive, contestants struggle, (and sometimes) overcome struggle, get praised then chewed out by the judges, go to hell and back, and ultimately one person takes home the grand prize. Yawn. How many times can we see a rocker on American Idol fail during R&B week? How many times can you listen to the judges on Chopped say that an appetizer made of goose liver, gummy worms and banana peels isn’t creative enough?
Enter FaceOff, SyFy’s “movie monster” makeup competition. Currently in its 9th season, with 2 cycles per year, special effect artists on the show are tasked with creating makeups and characters that range from angels and demons to fish people, to aliens, to whimsical Tim Burton-esque organisms. What these people can do with silicone and prosthetic noses!
Hosted by actress McKenzie Westmore (whose father, Michael Westmore is a mentor on the show and legendary Star Trek special effects artist), each week usually consists of a Foundation Challenge, a mini competition that awards immunity to the winner, and a Spotlight Challenge – the basis for which an artist is eliminated. Each challenge is unique, and tasks the artists with showing off their makeup/prosthetic/painting skills. And boy, do they!
This season, the show added Focus Challenges, which task the artists to get certain aspects of a makeup just perfect, “focusing in” on a character’s facial details, for example. Also introduced this season: The Gauntlet, a series of 3 Foundation Challenges back to back, in which the artists are scored and ranked; the lowest ranked artist is eliminated.
What the show does really well is it focuses on the actual challenge, and the artistry. It’s not (or it least it doesn’t feel) contrived; there’s no “Here are the artists at home, fighting after a long day.” It’s leave the studio, quick B-roll of a sunset, a sunrise, then back in the studio. The focus is on the artists and their talent, as it should be! Maybe they don’t fight at home; maybe they do. I don’t care, because I’m more interested in how they’re turning Bob into a crab man from Mars.
FaceOff also does social media right; viewers are encouraged during the show to talk about the artists’ creations on Twitter, but I doubt anyone really needs the reminder. The show tweets out GIFs and videos of the models’ transformations into their characters, and really tries to make it an interactive experience.
Words can’t really do the show justice; to see is to believe. While there are still reality competition shows that I really enjoy (why are there not 2 cycles of Top Chef a year?), FaceOff is just getting better, and weirder, with age.