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Domino Masters falls flat and into the same trap as Lego Masters

Domino Masters falls flat and into the same trap as Lego Masters
Domino Masters judges Steve Price, Vernon Davis, Danica McKellar, and host Eric Stonestreet watch Team Runs In The Family's Halloween-theme build topple. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

In the opening moments of Domino Masters, Fox’s new hobbyist building competition, there’s an appearance from its associate director, Weston Bahr, better known to viewers of Netflix’s Nailed It! as Wes—excuse me, Whesssssssss!

After his bit, Wes doesn’t reappear in the first episode, but what does is return is Lego Masters’ frustrating focus, as is clear from the trailers.

Yes, Domino Masters is another Fox building competition with talented contestants who produce awesome things, and yet are on a show that absolutely refuses to show us them building anything.

A football-themed build features both dominos and props on Domino Masters episode 1
A football-themed build features both dominos and props on Domino Masters episode 1. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

The Domino Masters contestants have large, shiny floor stages to create a combination of domino runs, toppling structures made out of dominos, and Rube Goldberg machines. Some of the teams create elaborate set pieces; others just place props around their lines of dominos.

These are some impressive builds, and we get to see practically none of it being built. Instead, 43 minutes are spent on things like conflict between teammates and host Eric Stonestreet singing with a contestant.

Stonestreet, who previously hosted ABC’s The Toy Box, does his best to inject some joviality into the proceedings, without totally taking over like Will Arnett does on Lego Masters.

Dominos Masters judges Steve Price, Vernon Davis, and Danica McKellar do their best to look interested during the "Qualifiers: Holidays episode of Domino Masters
Dominos Masters judges Steve Price, Vernon Davis, and Danica McKellar do their best to look interested during the “Qualifiers: Holidays episode of Domino Masters (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

Domino Masters’ judges are The Wonder Years’ Danica McKellar; the NFL’s Vernon Davis; and Steve Price, who “plans and builds custom chain reaction & domino projects for advertisements, TV & film, online content, and live events,” including competing on America’s Got Talent.

Take a Sharpie and draw faces on four dominos, place them side by side, and you’ll have a more dynamic panel of judges. Their chemistry is so non-existent it’s almost funny:

Eric Stonestreet: Steve, have you yourself ever used a technique like that?

Steve Price: I have. Yeah.

Eric Stonestreet: Really? Okay.

Danica McKeller has been given the unfortunate role of saying the word “story” over and over again, and Vernon Davis catches a football that Wes throws.

One of the contestants calls Steve “the Beyoncé of dominos,” and while Steve is the one person qualified to judge domino builds, he doesn’t have either her charisma nor the animation of his prior builds.

Neither does Domino Masters.

Team Dominators—Michael Carrasquillo, Breenae Washinton and DeMond Nason—works on their build on Domino Masters
Team Dominators—Michael Carrasquillo, Breenae Washinton and DeMond Nason—works on their build on Domino Masters (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

While there are 16 teams competing, we only meet four in the first episode, with two being eliminated and two going on to the playoff round.

I thought that the format would give us more time to get to know the builders and, more importantly, see them doing their work. Alas.

Of course, placing thousands of dominos side by side would not be riveting television, and Domino Masters gives us overhead, time-lapse shots of some domino placements.

Occasionally we see team members struggling with a component of their build, anxiously trying to place a domino, or accidentally bumping a domino and causing a premature topple.

But we never get even a start-to-finish understanding of any of the elements, or their planning, or any of the team members’ creativity. Elements appear out of nowhere, both built and pre-made objects. What is the point of a building competition where we don’t get to see the building?

The contestants do produce incredible, creative work, and that saves the show from being completely skippable. Save yourself the time and just fast-forward to the topples.

Watching their dominos topple, being knocked over or knocking over elaborate set pieces, is a lot of fun. Joe Buck does color commentary over the topples, because Domino Masters doesn’t even trust its best moment to stand on its own.

Domino Masters

Domino Masters is another Fox talent show that has creative contestants but doesn’t care about their creative process. C-

What works for me:

  • Impressive, elaborate builds that are fun to watch as they topple down
  • The stages are nice blank canvases to build on

What could be better:

  • The judges and their chemistry
  • More focus on the creative process instead of manufactured drama

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

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Happy discussing!

Adrienne

Monday 4th of July 2022

Ok, glad to hear it wasn't just me.... gotta wonder why they made these decisions. BTW this is the second time I've ended up on your site and then realized oh hey, it's Andy, from school!!! LOL!

Albert

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

Andy, I think you are being a little bit too hard on the show. I agree with some of your comments, Eric Stonestreet tries hard to be an engaging host, but it's not really his forte. Also I wish they would do a better job of showing the topples, the way they cut during the topple makes it hard to actually see it. Over all, I enjoy the show and think they are presenting it in a way that makes for a fun watch. I even enjoy the judges. (And Wil Arnett is what makes LM so fun to watch.) Make sure you leave room for personal taste, in your reviews.

Jeff

Wednesday 27th of April 2022

I thought this was a show about watching the hosts jump up and down. Because they seem to show more of that than the actual topple.

Nancy

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

What my husband and I would like to know is how many episodes do they film in a weeks time?

Aaron

Saturday 16th of April 2022

I watched this for the first time last night. To quote William Hurt from A History of Violence “How do you f..k that up?!?” I agree with everything in this review except one must add that the post production/editing team couldn’t even get the toppling part right! They cut away to the builders they use close ups. Wait, let’s pause for a second to take that in. Close ups, in a domino toppling video. This is like filming a baseball game but only show a close up of the catchers mitt during the game. The topple is the whole point!! I can deal with a lot but incompetence will always drive me crazy. A child would know better.