Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Strip Search

It's not like the lumbering internet colossus that is Penny Arcade really needs my help, but I have to point people to their oddball reality show Strip Search, in which a group of aspiring web comic artists battle for cash and a slot in the Penny Arcade machine for a year.

I’m not big fan of a lot of “reality” shows. I will watch the occasional Hell’s Kitchen episode because I like to see Ramsay’s face go red, and I like feeling that I can cook better than half his wannabe chefs. Strip Search is a different sort of deal, or has been thus far.

Contestants are likable, for starters. They haven’t descended into the usual metagaming backstabbery that forms the grist of most reality TV, and if that reduces drama, it increases the emotional weight of the eliminations. You want ALL these people to win. That’s a neat trick, and one the “real” reality genre might want to take note of.

Additionally, challenges are interesting and thus far tie in well to the skills a web comic author needs. So far they’ve avoided having contestants bob for hand grenades or chase greased Vietnamese pigs in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Instead, they draw, market, and deal with Twitter trolls.

PA creators Mike Krahulic and Jerry Holkins are amusing as the bastard offspring of Simon Cowell and a Labyrinth goblin, and eliminations are lightened by their transparent attempts to throw competitors off their game. And, my god, the smoothie. Anyone who’s watched knows what I’m on about. Holkins, you are a terrifying force for random ingestion. Robert Khoo does a fine job wearing his Producer’s hat, as well.

So go waste some time. Watch the first few – it gains speed and sucks you in by the fourth instalment – and see what a reality show can be in a world where people aren’t scripted.