Blown Away has not changed significantly in season two, which is both a relief and, honestly, a bit of a disappointment.
The Netflix reality show still has quick, 30-minute episodes that each have a single challenge. It still host (and former Big Brother contestant) Nick Uhas enthusiastically talking about glory holes. Head judge—I mean, resident evaluator—Katherine Gray delivers sharp but never withering critiques. They stand together above the hot shop and chat, usually awkwardly, with the episode’s guest judge.
Blown Away’s short episodes breeze by, and that keeps the show light on its feet, but also light on details. The editing is rapid-fire, shifting the image from contestant to contestant, piece to piece.
The art produced by the contestants is nearly always stunning, both in craft and in concept. I’m in awe of what these artists are able to conceive of and create in just hours.
That was true in season one, too, and after watching season two, I re-read my Blown Away season-one review, and everything in that still holds. So why re-review it? A few reasons.
First, I’m still just baffled by Netflix’s investment in the show, which seems oddly minimal. For example, the only cast photo they released appears to be a screenshot and doesn’t even show all of the cast, or identify any of them by name.
The first season was actually a co-production with a Canadian network, which broadcast the show before it went to Netflix. That explained the short episodes, commercial breaks, and perhaps the cheap prize.
Despite season-one’s popularity, not much has changed, although I don’t think it aired previously in Canada. Blown Away is still 10 episodes, each of which is less than 30 minutes.
Not even the cheap prize changed: it’s still just a “$60,000 prize package,” which of course means it’s not even $60,000 in cash. It’s so pathetically small, and these artists deserve more.
Season two it does feel more self-assured, and there’s a little more playfulness and looseness. While the glory hole references are not acknowledged or joked about, alas, there is more humor, and more buoyancy.
Some of that comes from the guest judges, many of whom are more familiar, from season-one cast members (Alexander Rosenberg and winner Deborah Czeresko both appear) to celebrities (including Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk and NFL player Stephen Weatherly).
I think Bobby may speak more in his episode than he does in all of Queer Eye. He is judging a challenge that involves creating table centerpieces, which he says are “pieces that work best are pretty and have a purpose, kind of like Nick.”
“You’re the best, dude,” Nick replies, though I had to re-watch it three times and turn on subtitles because I first thought he said, “you’re a bastard.” (Blown Away has not changed that much.)
The editing is what frustrates me the most, both in terms of the process and the contestants. I was disappointed that. The pieces still come out of nowhere. There’s no sense of how a stick of glass becomes a bubble becomes a tree, or a face.
With limited time, I’d like less of the contestants repeating platitudes about the challenge theme and more of them explaining what they’d doing and how they’re making these amazing things.
The show makes a particularly infuriating choice with its new villain, Chris, editing him to be a comically one-note arrogant jerk—until it suddenly reveals two pieces of new information, in back-to-back episodes, that help explain both his attitude and his art. But that empathy came too late for me, because I’d spent so much time just wanting him to leave my TV screen.
The judges critique each piece in the showroom, and then they ask a question to a few of the contestants. There’s no true conversation between the contestants and the judges, at least not on screen, and also no debate or discussion that we get to see between the judges.
Why they’ve chosen a particular piece as a winner or decided another was bad enough to send someone home is never as clearly articulated as these decisions are on other reality competitions.
Instead, we see them talking off to the side but cannot hear them, which is an annoying choice—especially when their decisions are annoying.
In one challenge, which asks contestants to create a character, one contestant does not make a character at all, and yet somehow is not eliminated. Imagine if Top Chef asked its contestants to make fresh pasta and then someone made a wool fedora instead, and then Padma sent someone else home—someone who actually made fresh pasta—without explaining why!
I know as little about blowing glass as I do about throwing pottery, but watching The Great Pottery Throw-Down—a series I could not recommend more highly—I understand how a lump of clay becomes a fountain or a chandelier.
Of course, that show has three challenges per episode; Blown Away has just one, and it lasts just a few hours.That means it is still a quick, easy, enjoyable watch, but I can’t shake the sense of how much better this could be.
Judging one piece, Blown Away judge Katherine Gray says, “The opaque color is a bit of a barrier.” It is, for Blown Away, too.
Blown Away: B
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