There are few words that sum up my childhood better than Disney, N64, and Jim Henson. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that there would be a new reality TV competition making its way to Syfy, called Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge. The Face Off-esque show is hosted by Gigi Edgley, known for Farscape, and stars a group of special effects artists and puppeteers looking to win a spot in Jim Henson Company’s Creature Shop.
The group of contestants range from interns and newcomers to artists with decades of experience. The premise of the show is pretty simple: every week Brian Henson will give the group a challenge. They will either be paired up in teams, or work alone to create a puppet worthy of Jim Henson. The first challenge was to make a full body puppet which represents a creature that would be found in the depths of the ocean. The contestants got paired into teams and went right to work.
Most of the teams got along pretty well, but as is often the case when you put different personalities together under a time crunch, things got ugly with one pair. Tina and Russ did not see eye to eye on many of the decisions with regard to their fish puppet. Tina dominated the conversation, and Russ failed to make any attempt to voice his opinions. Other teams worked much smoother, and made puppets resembling slugs, fish, or crabs. At the end of the two day challenge, the teams had to take their creations to the sound stage at the Jim Henson Studios and run a screen test with a performer in their puppet.
Once on the sound stage, contestants were introduced to their panel of judges. Over the course of the season they will be judged by Brian Henson (The Chairman of the Jim Henson Company), world-renowned designer Peter Brooke, mechanization and animatronics master John Criswell and fabrication and artistic specialist Julie Zobel. While there were several creations that wowed the judges, only one team won the challenge. The winning team was comprised of Josh and Lex, with their ‘Devil Prong’ puppet which featured a very detailed head using tinfoil, glue, and paint.
The person sent home was Chaz, the contestant responsible for the head sculpt of a slug-like creature. The judges felt its jaw was too large and too difficult for the performer to operate.
I was actually pleased that there wasn’t a lot of drama in this episode compared to other reality TV shows. I often find that reality competition shows get so bogged down with the drama that it takes away from the amazing work these artists are doing. I look forward to seeing what other challenges this show will have, and hope one includes the contestants making their own Muppet. Overall, I’m interested to see where this show goes.
Find out more about Episode 1 of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge with Syfy’s Behind-The-Scenes video:
“What Lies Beneath” – B+
‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge’: Season 1 Episode 1, “What Lies Beneath” aired March 25, 2014 on Syfy.
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