Following in the footsteps of Face Off, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge takes several contestants and pits them against each other in the race for the top prize. The reward is a ton of cash and the ability to work in Henson’s infamous creature shop. Personally, I’d refuse the money and just be so honored to work for a personal hero indirectly.
In any case, the program replicates Face Off, right down the main stage showcase near the end of the show. This isn’t a bad thing, as anyone who has followed one of SyFy’s most popular shows knows it has a pretty big following. In order for Creature Shop to succeed, and maybe even be a long running show, its copy and paste method was a wise choice.
Brian Henson, son of Jim, shows up to judge and lend some insight to the proceedings, an obvious wise choice to help out with the program. However, I couldn’t stand the host, Gigi Edgley (Farscape). Her lack of enthusiasm and boring personality was a bizarre choice for such a creative brand. I understand the shop did work for Farscape, but c’mon, they could’ve found somebody a LOT better.
Thankfully, her screen time is drowned out by the contestants, who provided enough humor and drama to make the hour fly by. The creative method showcased by these people is extremely interesting to watch, and some claws pop out when teams don’t work so well together. Even when the final design is messy, it’s puppetry come to life, so it’s a lot more forgiving to watch because it’s just so fun.
During last night’s episode, the teams (two people each) had two days to create a fully operational rare underwater creature that hid a human body within it. The product output of every team was just really cool to watch, even if the ideas behind it were not really 100% thought out. I also really liked the screen test stage, where a set was built specifically for the puppet to move around on. And that aspect will change each week based on the challenge. Also, seeing the contestants “teach” professional puppeteers how they think their design should be manipulated was engaging as well.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge definitely has a lot to offer. Aside from the “meh” host, there is a fascinating draw to seeing these people race to complete such complex puppets and make them come alive through imagination. While I love Face Off, this one I feel I like a little bit more, as it really taps into the darker side of Henson’s vision, brought to life in movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Obviously as the supporter of anything puppet, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge provides a real behind the scenes look of how much work the creative process behind movie monsters can be. That’s the real draw, and seeing new creatures come to life each week should be really entertaining. I just hope that maybe in the SyFy programming pipeline, this becomes a long running show. As for right now, I can’t wait to head back to the shop next week.