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Ink Master, TV’s first tattoo competition, reaches 100 episodes

Ink Master, TV’s first tattoo competition, reaches 100 episodes
Ink Master season 7 runner-up Cleen Rock One, center, and two human canvases. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Spike)

The eighth episode of Ink Master airs tonight on Spike, and represents a milestone for television’s first tattooing competition: it’s the show’s 100th episode.

While the Dave Navarro-hosted show debuted in 2012, well after the craze of talent competitions kicked off by Project Runway and Top Chef, it’s now one of the few talent-driven reality television competitions left. It follows roughly the same format as its predecessors, but its contestants use human canvases, people who subject themselves to rapid tattooing in a competition for the chance at a free tattoo (but not free removal). That adds drama and consequence, especially considering the nature of some of the challenges.

This season, judges Oliver Peck and Chris Núñez are each mentoring a team of tattoo artists that they picked. Their friendship, including with host Dave Navarro, is apparently too real for the show—so they have to reshoot scenes if they’re too friendly. Peck told International Business Times, “The problem is that me, Chris and Dave are all such good friends that we have to try to separate that to be separate judges, and sometimes we have to take step back and do it again just for the show’s sake. We need to be a little bit more harsh. We get to having fun and joking around, and just because we’re so used to it and, we’re having a good time, that we have to kind of stop and start over because we have to get our game face on to be in the moment.”

Spike EVP Sharon Levy told RealScreen that the network is responsible for the increasingly outrageous challenges, by telling producers what kinds of challenges they want to see. “We’re always giving them these categories that we feel are uncastable, and yet they always deliver,” she said.

Also interesting: the show is part of Spike’s strategy to become a broader network, not just one for young men who are entertained by Jon Taffer screaming incoherently at people about obviously set-up situations. Of course, there is still shouting and pushing. “We immediately realized that it would skew more female than the stuff that had already been on the channel,” Levy said.

The show lost viewers last season, but grew its 18-to-49-year-old viewers by 252 percent.

The show is produced by Original Media, and Original’s Glenda Hersh told RealScreen, “These days it’s hard to get a show launched, it’s hard to get a show to reach a second season. For this show to reach 100 episodes and still be as strong as our show is, it’s a real testament to the concept, the format, the producers, the network and the support of the show, which is really spectacular.”

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