Thursday, January 03, 2013

TV Review: Hot Set on Syfy

I was ridiculously excited when Syfy started advertising Hot Set, their companion show for Face Off. Everything about it seemed like it was going to be fantastic, and the fact that it seemed similar to Face Off only added to the excitement.

Hot Set is a competition series focused on another movie behind-the-scenes craft that is often overlooked, set design. I'm already a sucker for reality shows that focus on a talent or a trade, and I love anything that is behind-the-scenes of filmmaking. Set designers are one of the heroes of modern filmmaking, and when you have good set design and art direction, everything else becomes so much more believable. When I was part of a group making a web series, the producer and director said that they were worried about our set design because that is one of the main ways to tell a student or amateur. production apart from a professional one.

I suppose it's probably inevitable that Hot Set didn't live up to my expectations. It wasn't that it wasn't a good show, it was. It was far better than most of what is on tv these days. But it just didn't pop the way that shows like Top Chef or Face Off do. And part of the reason for that was the format - instead of having a large group of contestants that get whittled down as the weeks go by, each which was a new pair of competitors. We didn't even begin to get to know anybody that was on the show and so we only had the most superficial of reasons to prefer one over the other. We need characters and people that we're invested in, even in a competition show, unless it's something where we can play along like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune.

The "twists" for each show were also a little lackluster, and were revealed to the audience by the episode titles and previews so I'm really not sure why they bothered to keep it from the contestants for five minutes. Why not just give them all the information at once rather than have the fake dramatic reveal?

And I kind of hate to bring it up, but the host wasn't as engaging or interesting as most shows of this type. Project Runway All Stars has had two seasons of lackluster hosting to prove that Heidi Klum is part of what makes Project Runway work. Top Chef didn't really take off until they found Padma. While China Chow was sometimes hit or miss on Work of Art, she at least seemed to be enjoying herself. The host of Hot Set doesn't really seem to be getting comfortable in front of the camera, and doesn't seem to enjoy his job. McKenzie Westmore isn't always perfect either, but she always seems at ease and at least ready for the challenge of hosting Face Off, the live finale of season three aside (that was just kind of painful all around, I really hope they don't do it again).

Overall, I hope that Syfy brings back Hot Set for another season, because anything that celebrates the artisans that make movies is worthwhile. But I hope they consider a few format changes. At the end of the day, I'd almost rather see a documentary program about set designers on their regular jobs than see them thrown into competition, because then I could get to know them a little better and see what they're actually made of in different situations. It's a problem that I don't know how to fix, but I hope somebody is working on it so that we get an awesome season two.