I have something of a love-hate relationship with themed reality TV shows. I love watching interesting people do cool jobs like tattoo art, fashion design or baking, but I loathe when a potentially engaging show is padded for time with drama and narrators repeating the same information 17 times over.
So if like me you’re tired of watching a group of passive-aggressive timebombs be given models who are allergic to body paint, or be made to talk about their second-cousin’s non-fatal illness – join me for a scenic walk through the amiable escapades of Strip Search.
When Penny Arcade announced that they were creating an internet reality show about “finding America’s next big webcomic artist”, I heard a lot of ‘tepid’ reactions.
Since PA are generally good, and loved by the geek community, but X-Factor is generally an abhorrent mess that’s hated by the same people – whose weird idea was it to combine the two?
But like Kingdom Hearts and Cheese & Onion Crisps before it, a unexpected combination yielded some surprising results; not only is Strip Search good, it’s lovely! It takes all the things I hate about reality TV and sticks them in a bag labelled “Do not recycle”.
Despite what the above advert insinuates, it’s a warm-hearted series that mainly follows a lot of creative people just having some fun: Ice-breaker games, tourist sightseeing and doodling stuff. Naturally in the challenges there is drama, but the focus is on contestants doubting themselves and overcoming that – rather than hating-on or sabotaging each other.
Keeping episodes to 10-20 minutes long really works in the show’s favour – the vague length means that each episode ends when it needs to, without any noticeable filler or cuts. And LoadingReadyRun have done a great job of directing and hosting in way thats in-keeping with the tone.
It’s also really refreshing to have a host in Graham Stark, a man who isn’t famous for “being female” and has actually done something to earn a place in the program.
A disconnect does happen however when Penny Arcade themselves get involved. PA creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik judge ‘elimination rounds’ where the two weakest artists of the day complete a challenge in order to stay on the show. Their humor is dry and their manner is serious, Alan Sugar style, but they keep flipping into “it’s okay, we’re here to have fun too!” and it’s odd.
While I get that they really should give off vibes of a higher-status, being judges and potential bosses for the participants, it’s so far from the rest of the show’s tone that it makes no real sense.
I seriously recommend giving Strip Search a watch, and holding out until episode 2 at least – since the first episode doesn’t really do it justice. It’s fun and geeky in a way that’s reminiscent of Scrapheap Challenge.
Which I guess makes Graham “The Canadian Robert Llewellyn“?