Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Catching Up

A few months back I saw the first commercials for a new reality/competition type show, called "Making It".  Hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, who had worked together on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation" for years, one of my favorite shows of its era.  However I am not a fan of so called reality shows, which are generally built on creating conflicts that aren't very interesting.  What made me notice this one was that the theme was built on art, an emphasis on crafts and the idea of making things by hand.  The few clips shown on commercials often looked a bit like my old 3D class, which I taught for 7 semesters across two colleges, building my interest in the show.  The two hosts have been making the rounds in recent weeks promoting it and the premier was last night.  I was home in time to watch it, and did so, but in recent years I have found that when I'm very tired (as a woodcut class will make me) I don't really get what I see on tv, so I recorded it to watch later.

Shows about art don't always do well on tv, and mixing it with reality shows doesn't help.   Some of the early reality shows had interesting premises, but the tv producers decided long ago that the emphasis should be on creating conflicts, which they believe are more interesting than contestants actually accomplishing goals.  Over time it has gotten worse.  The last art themed show on tv that I remember was one called Work of Art on Bravo, which seemed to have no desire to show the episodes.  We just got one night and that was it, while all the various Real Housewives shows they carried were shown 5 or 6 days and nights per week.  When the second season ended it was not renewed, despite the involvement of big institutions, large sponsor prizes, famous artists, and more nudity than you usually get to see on basic cable.  The weekly competitions had little to do with normal artistic approaches and experiences, and many of the contestants seem to have been chosen for how poorly they would meet the challenges.  Still, I wrote about each episode as they happened, so I figured I should at least give this new show a try.

The set up is they start with 8 artists, all with different mediums, and each episode they have to complete a short craft (the winner of which receives a patch to wear) and then a longer more involved one.  The judges then award one contestant a prize, and then send one home.  They are given a nice well lit space to work in, each has a large work table, and there seems to be plenty of tools.  No mention was made where the materials come from.  Our hosts contribute to the discussions, but may have nothing to do with the final decisions.  (on that show a few years ago, the tv producers sometimes overruled the judges and made sure their favorites prevailed) On the sitcom, Offerman portrayed Ron Swanson, a hyper competent man who could hand build anything out of wood or metal, and had many obscure but respectable talents.  On one occasion I had one of my 3D students remark that something we were doing was something that Ron Swanson could do.  I think Ron could have been the patron saint of our class, and agreed.  Poehler's character on the old show had no such abilities, and on this one her character seems particularly clueless, but this is all tv stuff.  In real life, Offerman is a skilled woodworker and carpenter, and some of this is bound to come out in his role as co-host, but so far he's not trying to out shine the contestants.

So how was the first show?  The episode opened with the starting point that the world is full of people who like to make things, and have the hand skills to do it.  I agree- it's a big part of how I teach classes.  The materials used by the contestants so far include wood, fabric, paper, natural materials, found objects (what they call "hodgepodge materials"), which sounds a lot like my 3D class.   The projects so far do not reflect things I have done or would likely do- like most college level foundation level classes, mine had an emphasis on learning formal issues, while the projects on the tv show seem to revolve around creating a craft object.  For example, the first project called for making an animal that represented their spirit self.  A lot of the 3D projects involved an animal, but never as a personal symbol; for my assignments it was just a simple starting point, not really the purpose of the project.  Some of the participants showed decent hand skills, but none of the resulting artworks particularly impressed me.  The one person sent home was the oldest contestant, who didn't quite finish her two projects- so maybe an art decision or maybe a tv decision.  I'll continue to watch the show for now and see where it goes.


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