Metal Shop Masters is Blown Away but for artists who work in metal, and it feels like a show produced by Netflix’s algorithm, not by talented craftspeople. Someone took Blown Away, copied and pasted it, changed some details, and hoped we wouldn’t notice.
Blown Away has its charms and its problems, and Metal Shop Masters has none of the charm and even more severe problems.
I’m here for an art competition (I still miss Bravo’s Work of Art), and always ready to see competitions that feature talented people who are skilled in a trade. When I first saw Metal Shop Masters, I thought it might take off like Blown Away did, but in the week since it premiered, that hasn’t happened.
I think that’s because the show just sits there, heavy and lifeless. Host Jo Koy tries to inject life, but it’s discordant and comes off as trying too hard, like he’s running a 5K while trying to carry a massive, metal sculpture.
The show is produced by JD Roth and Adam Greener’s GoodStory Entertainment, which also produced HBO Max’s Karma—which was also a copy of a better show, Endurance. (For some reason, Karma vanished off HBO Max just over two months after it premiered.)
The contestants they’ve found are quite talented, and have produced some incredible art in the past. And we do get to see them doing work, and learn a little more about their process—and, of course, their backstories. But beyond that, the show does them no favors. Like so many other shows, most recently Lego Masters, the judging is a mess, because the criteria are never clear, and the subjectivity comes across as random.
The judges, Stephanie Hoffman and David Madero, aren’t being helped by the producing. They stand off to the side, or sometimes on a platform above the studio, just like on Blown Away, and chat with the host, offering banal comments (Cutting metal by hand is different than cutting by computer! Two people working for 10 hours is equal to 20 hours of work time!) and condescending criticism (That person shouldn’t have taken off her jacket because welding is dangerous!).
Instead of giving very specific, technical feedback about the art form they should be experts in, they end up offering particularly lifeless commentary, presumably so viewers don’t get lost. But I want to see experts talk to other experts instead of, for example, hearing Madero complain that one of the artists is “so artsy” that “all that creative energy she has might get in the way.” So an artist is too artsy? As they look at the final pieces, the judges don’t have much more to offer.
The producers’ worst choice is sending the judges out in the middle of the first challenge to inform not one but two contestants that they’ve broken the rules. The challenge asks the contestants 10 hours to assemble an avatar of themselves, though they’ve had time to work on all of the pieces at home.
One contestant, Rae, has to disassemble stuff that was welded together at home, while the other, Seven, has to throw away pieces they brought along that were prefabricated, like a gear.
When 28 percent of your cast has such significant misunderstanding of a challenge’s rules, perhaps the problem is with those rules or the production’s communication of them. It starts the competition on a really sour note.
While the first challenge is open-ended, the second is much more contained: create a grill in the shape of food that you’d grill. Alas, it’s a team competition, because with just six episodes, why let your contestants just show off what they can do when you can instead create drama by forcing them to work together?
One of the contestants, Frank, completely misunderstands the actual brief, and I felt so much for Leah, who’s paired with him and is in disbelief when he denies that they’re supposed to make the grill in the shape of a food you’d grill. How is that they cannot just walk over and look at some rules and confirm that?
Spoiler alert for episodes one and two: The judges eliminate Seven in the first episode, despite praising the moving sculpture they managed to create from scratch in the remaining time, and then in episode two, eliminate Leah despite the fact that she was only person on her two-person team who actually tried to execute on the challenge. That’s the last episode of Metal Shop Masters I watched, because if a show is that confused about its own rules, and that unfair to its own contestants, it is not worth my time.
These are clearly talented artists; it’s too bad they didn’t end up on a show worthy of their work.
Metal Shop Masters
Metal Shop Masters has great art but comes across as a mediocre clone of Blown Away. D
What works for me:
- The artists’ work
What could be better:
- The judging
- The producing
- The rules