Sunday, May 5, 2013

Through the window of the oven

I have recently been obsessed with, of all things, a reality show.

It is an odd experience for me as, to be frank, I am not a fan of the genre. To be more honest, I find most reality television unwatchable. I am not a fan of manufactured drama; the bizarre editing to shape people in unnatural ways. The whole process caters to quick judgements, cruel people, gossip, and taking pleasure with messy spectacles. It is a part of the celebrity gossip news world that does not appeal to me.

It makes it all more surprising that I find myself sucked into a reality show. It is a web series called Strip Search. The guys behind Penny Arcade placed twelve inspiring webcomic artists in a house together over two weeks and ran them through art challenges for prizes and to avoid elimination (which is to create a comic strip in 90 minutes to be judge by the creators). The winner's prize is $15,000 and one year working out the Penny Arcade studios (one of the most sucessful webcomic business in the world).

I think there are a couple reasons the show has drawn me in. One is that I love comic art, the art form I have loved the longest (born out of childhood love of super hero comics, that has evolved into a love of graphic novels of all types). I love strip art and read a lot of webcomics (the 21st century equivalent of the funny papers) over the course of the day. So a show following twelve web artists to see their different art styles is a pleasure.

Another reason is that I can consume the product of my favorities, right now. The artists all have websites, prints, books, and strips to consume. Unlike the other shows, they are a group of professionals already making something that is easy to access, versus other reality show that have restaurants I will likely not make it too, fashion I will not wear, etc. Comics are easy to get a hold of and read. It makes the show more fun when you can see what they are capable of and still follow them after the show.

Finally, the editors of the show did a good job of treating the contestants fairly, not twisting them too much. I read the interview that the editors of the show wanted to make sure none of the "losers" were "unhireable" afterwards (so there was effort to avoid train wrecks). Although you don't get a full story (each episode is only 20 minutes roughly), there isn't an attempt to make "villains" and "drama". If the show has any villains, it is the creators who are slowly destroying the wonderful house of art and friendship they have inadvertently ushered into existence. (If the editing could be trusted)

Should you watch? I do recommend checking out a couple of episodes, but more importantly, I recommend that you check out all the artists. The Internet offers a lot of alternatives to the stale newspaper funnies, its a matter of finding them. Strip Search helps that process.

I would conclude with saying that I don't think this is a gateway show for me to enter the reality tv world. This is anomaly that has fallen into my world. Also, the show is at the halfway point (all previous episodes are available on the show's website), and so my final verdict is still outstanding. The pudding is half cooked and much could go wrong. But for now, I like the smell.