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TV Review: Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge


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On this TV Reviews post, I am talking about the new show on SyFy Channel that takes puppeteering to the next level.  Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge introduces ten hopeful creature designers who have come to Los Angeles with an incredible shared dream: to land a job working in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.  The eight episode series provides a fascinating window into the imaginative and wildly creative environment of world-class creature design, fabrication and mechanization.  The series is hosted by Gigi Edgley, and lead judge for the show is Brian Henson, Chairman of The Jim Henson Company, who also oversees the groundbreaking work of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

I am glad to see the Jim Henson Company opening their doors to the outside world that most people have never seen before.  As you know, Jim Henson has brought us some great characters.  They have designed the characters for Sesame Street.  They designed The Muppets, who are now in theaters.  They designed some characters from the classic sci-fi show Farscape, and they created the characters from the classic show Fraggle Rock.  Now, we get to see some great magic created by the contestants in this show.  And after watching episode one, I thought the characters were cool to watch!  After the eight episodes, one contestant will win a prize worth up to $100,000, and a contract working at the world-renowned Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

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Challenges on the series explore all aspects of the creature design field, from sculpting and animatronics to full-body creature creation.  Evaluating the designs are the esteemed panel of judges, led by Brian Henson and including creature fabricator Beth Hathaway and creature designer Kirk R. Thatcher.  The judges will be evaluating the creatures for overall creativity and originality, technical execution and, most importantly, how convincingly the creature designers bring their creations to life.  Each episode, the creatures will be featured in a screen test in which professional puppeteers showcase the creatures’ ability to perform and transport an audience to another world.

The Jim Henson Creature Shop is about imagination, and with more and more things becoming CGI animated, it’s important to retain this piece of movie and TV magic.  Having more things becoming CGI would mean the end to Jim Henson’s vision.  In the first episode, the contestants were paired into teams of two, and they had to come up with a newly discovered creature from the bottom of the ocean.  Not just an aquatic animal, but something with substance and history.  Not only the contestants had to come up with a creature, they had to machine the puppet, make sure the creature would not fall apart, and show how the creature fits in the world created for the characters.

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Yeah, you can tell that the show takes on the same formula you see in other shows like Face Off.  You have the drama, challenge of the week, mentors, seeing how the process is done, the judging, and then the elimination.  My only gripe about this show is I thought they needed to mix up this formula you see in other reality shows and try something new for a change.  I felt like I was getting bored during the middle part of the show, the first and last parts were great, and I enjoyed the creatures in action.  One big difference in this show is the contestants not only have to present a working and great looking creature, they also have to present great storytelling, that is what the Jim Henson Company is all about!

I hoped we would see Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge change the already dumbed down reality show formula you see in other similar shows.  But I enjoyed the creatures being created on this show!  So I am mixed about this show, the beginning and ends of this show is worth watching, but the middle part could be skipped.  If you are watching this show on the DVR, watch the beginning, FF through the middle, and watch the last part where the judging happens!  You are not regret seeing the creatures in action!  New episodes of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge airs on Tuesday nights on Syfy Channel.  To learn more go to: http://www.syfy.com/creatureshop

All images and videos copyright from Syfy Channel

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