I’m one of those people who prefers more “competition” and less “reality” in his reality TV competitions. Whether it’s Top Chef or Project Runway or American Idol, I tend to value the food or the couture or the singing over the backstage drama. But on last night’s series premiere of Face Off, SyFy’s spankin’ new special-effects showdown, I could’ve used just a little more focus on the human beings tasked with creating out-of-this-world makeup designs. Throughout the opening hour, I found myself wishing the producers would slow down the pace and let me get to know the players involved before immersing me in their world of latex molds and spray-on complexions. Because ultimately, it’s hard to have a rooting interest if you don’t know who exactly is behind the work you’re looking at.
That said, a couple key players emerged. I’m already 100 percent on board the Tom Express: The way he used pineapple leaves to create a Sleestak-type creature (pictured) during the Foundation Challenge (where the contestants had only two hours to work one element of their cocktail party decorations into an original makeup design) was downright remarkable. How the judges handed immunity to Gage instead of Tom was as unnerving as Jessica’s “cauliflower teeth.”
The party challenge also gave me someone to immediately root against: FRANK! Seriously, it’s no accident he’s got the word “rank” in his name, what with the way he rushed to finish early and then taunted his rivals with his obnoxious eating and balloon popping. Frank’s mama needs to come to the set immédiatement, grab her boy by the ear, and remind him he’s a grown-ass man. J’enough!
The Spotlight Challenge was pretty nifty, too, with the artists asked to create half-human, half-animal hybrids based on black beetles, elephants, or ostriches. I just wish the first elimination had been an individual challenge, not something based on teams of two.
It was clear Jessica and Jo were in trouble the moment they said they were aiming for a “high-fashion ostrich,” and then Jo added that particular direction was “something I don’t normally do ever.” (Because that kind of tactic always works out so well on reality TV!) That they ended up creating Howard the Duck in drag was not much of a shock. That Jo outlasted Jessica for showing more “passion” in front of the judges was a little more of an eyebrow-raiser.
I was glad Conor and Tom’s elephant man (with its flexible wattle!) prevailed over Frank and Tate’s Darth Vader bug, although frankly, I’d have put Megan and Anthony’s elegant poet ostrich in second place — despite the fact that their creature was forced to attend a mythical book signing.
Did you watch the Face Off premiere? If so, what did you think? Do you already have a rooting interest? And did the right contestant go home? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.