Face Off Debut Recap: Making Up Is Hard to Do

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.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Patty says:

    I saw it last night and had been looking forward to it. Jessica was definitely the right person to go home. Her design was really not well done and the fact that she was proud of it just made me think she shouldn’t be there. I think Conor and Tom’s elephant man and Frank and Tate’s beetle were the best designs but I liked the beetle more (even though I HATE bugs) because that model did a good job and sold me on the concept and everything.

  2. Shake's says:

    Tom makes my makes for my Halloween event and for alot of my friends. As you put it “I’m already 100 percent on board the Tom Express”.

  3. linstro says:

    I was surprised that I found the show interesting — too soon for me to pick a favorite — but I will definitely be watching next week.

  4. I enjoyed the first episode, and will continue to watch, but I’m not sure who I’m rooting for yet. I liked Tom’s first design, with the pineapple leaves, but I *really* liked Gage’s! I was happy that he won the Foundation Challenge. I completely agree that the first Spotlight Challenge should have been as individuals instead of as teams. How can you see where people’s talent really lies if they are forced to work with someone they just met a day ago? It’s not fair to them, and it’s really not fair to us! Here’s hoping they have an individual challenge next episode!

  5. KevyB says:

    Yeah, too early for teams. I liked the hybrid idea though and it would’ve been interesting to give each person an animal and they had to do half a face with somebody else doing the other half with a different animal. That would’ve required teamwork in the blending areas, but we could’ve seen who really screwed up. Though that “ostrich” bill was ATROCIOUS and Jessica deserved to go home for it.

  6. Megan Dodson says:

    Actually it makes sense to do the teams from a time standpoint. Look how they rushed through the showcase & judging on the Foundation challenge. If they’d gone individual in the spotlight, it would have taken forever to get through the showcase/judging portion on that as well let alone show as much of the inprogress stuff.

  7. Andrew says:

    I couldn’t agree with your review more. I don’t want to see a bunch of back-stage drama but they could’ve used a little more getting-to-know-you time with the contestant’s. Still I prefer that to: all drama, no reality. Seriously though, what was up with that ‘Howard the Duck’ monstrosity LOL. I am certainly glad I recently made the switch to HD before I watched Face Off though. I highly recommend it, especially since DISH Network offers HD Free for Life with all of their top packages. This is one of those shows where the details are of tremendous value and it looked absolutely gorgeous in high definition. As a DISH subscriber/ employee I watch a lot of different shows in an effort to stay current and this one really stood out! I look forward to seeing the rest of the season.