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6 Shows like Face Off: Where Talent Lives

James Thomas itcherI have dreams of doing what I love for a living, and the people behind reality television are well aware of this fact. But the best shows are the ones where the talented people earn their dreams. TV shows like ‘Face Off’ are a prime example of a program that actual requires that the participants have some skill instead of being rich, famous, and vapid. If you like your reality TV to have a bit of substance, check out ‘Skinwars,’ ‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge’ and ‘Hot Set.’ ~ James Thomas

Show Us What You Got

‘Face Off’ is a show that combines everything that works about respected reality competition shows like ‘Project Runway’ and fits them into one, neat and geeky package that folks love. Competitors create movie monsters using makeup and very understanding models, under tight deadlines with the added threat of facing some of the toughest judges in the business.

Like the best competition shows, there is no fake interpersonal drama getting in the way of the work. And who needs added drama when you are trying to fabricate a steampunk mermaid out of vacuum foam.

Each week the contestants are given three days to complete a unique challenge after which their work is judged by Ve Neill (Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire), Neville Page (Watchmen, Cloverfield, Avatar) and Glenn Hetrick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5).


Shows Similar to ‘Face off’…

‘Skinwars’ (Game Show Network, 2014- )

If you wanted to be fashionable and completely nude all the time, then reality TV has your back and your front and whatever other naughty bits are aesthetically pleasing. In TV Shows like ‘Face Off’, the ability and artistry of the contestants is put to the test in a series of challenges. The difference is that in ‘Skinwars’ the art is body paint.

The technique and beauty of each project make the show compelling, but it’s the challenges that make things interesting.

The host of the show is someone who is intimately familiar with the art of body painting, Rebecca Romijn, who was an incredible canvas herself as Mystique in the X-men films, in which her costume consisted almost solely of body paint. Also, one of the judges is the enigmatic Ru Paul from ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’, someone with more than a passing familiarity with competition.

Similarity Match: 95%
Like ‘Face Off’, ‘Skin Wars’ challenges talented amateurs in the art of applying makeup and paint, but these contestants only have skin and color to create works of art.

‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge’ (Syfy, 2014)

If you don’t like The Muppets, then you are practically dead inside. I was raised on these puppets in one form or another. Now thanks to ‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge’ the legacy of the Muppets live on as contestants compete to join the creative team behind Jim Henson’s studios.

I find that one of the best things about the show is the insight it gives you into the tough world of puppetry even outside of the shows completion.

No wonder Miss Piggy is such a diva. The host of the show is Gigi Edgley, one the main actresses from the fan favorite and critically-acclaimed Jim Henson’s ‘Farscape’ while the contestants are judged on the Henson Sound Stage and voted off by Brian Henson.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge’ can sometimes involve creating some very technical puppets to stay in the competition, but the aesthetic read of the characters contestant create is key to their success much like ‘Face Off’.

‘Hot Set’ (Syfy, 2012- )

‘Hot Set’ is a show that moves away from creating the monsters and special little characters I love and instead focuses on the world that they inhabit. In series similar to ‘Face Off’ contestants compete to create sets for up and coming movies.

Now you may think that this could be as simple as putting up some drapes. But in a good movie the set tells a story, becomes a part of the narrative, and is completed under budget. Ben Mankiewicz serves as the show’s host, with the judges being Curt Beech, Lilly Kilvert, and Barry Robison.

Similarity Match: 90%
On ‘Hot Set’ contestants compete at perfecting an aspect of television and film that is often overlooked but put in the same effort in each meticulous design any of the other competitions on this list.

‘Monster Man’ (Syfy, 2012)

Though ‘Monster Man’ is not a TV series like ‘Face Off’, featuring a competition, it does feature tons of great monster effects and a talented artist. I enjoy following makeup and effects artist Cleve Hall and his worker bees as they bring nightmares to Hollywood.

The show is set right in the heart of the big budget movie machine but most of the time I get to enjoy Cleve offering his expertise to smaller productions that favor practical effects over CGI.

The show is less about drama than most reality television shows and more about a fun guy and his family loving their work and creating weird and wonderful creatures, which I can appreciate.

Similarity Match: 80%
While there is no competition in ‘Monster Man’ there is plenty of great makeup designs and practical effects that you get to watch being created from concept to completion.


If You Like ‘Face Off’, You Will Like…

The two following shows deal in creativity and competition just like ‘Face Off’, but each one focuses on an art form removed from traditional makeup and effects design.

‘Ink Master’ (Spike, 2012- )

‘Ink Master’ is a competition show with an added bit of Rock and Roll and permanence by working on that most exclusive and special of canvas, the human body.

Groups of tattoo artist get together and compete to see who can work with skin the best and create the most memorable designs. The primary point of the show is to showcase how cool the contestants and judges happen to be.

The show’s judges include Dave Navarro, the former guitarist of Janes Addiction and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and notable California tattoo personalities Chris Núñez and Oliver Peck – two artists whose work I’ve seen in more than a few tattoo magazines.

The artists on ‘Ink Master’ do much more permanent work and have less of a time constraint than the competitors on ‘Face Off’, but talent still plays an essential part in both shows.

‘Heroes of Cosplay’ (Syfy, 2013- )

The competitors in ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ are a part of a subculture that is all about self-expression. Even if they aren’t professionals, this show is made up of talented people who design makeup and outfits at a level that rivals many paid artists.

Unlike ‘Face Off’ or any of the other shows above, contestants dress themselves to resemble specific characters from comic books, fantasy, and science fiction. The format of the show is also similar to ‘Face Off’ however there is a bit of drama thrown in from time to time.

The competitors on ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ are not competing to enter a specific career but for notoriety in the cosplay community. However, the level of technique in this show, as in ‘Face Off’ is inspiring.


When the Work Pays Off

Reality shows built around real talent are rare but they tend to remain popular.

What sort of talent based show would you like to see?

Let me know in the comments down below.

itcher Mag is the place for entertainment recommendations across movies, books, music and games.
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