“The ultimate crafting competition.”
The previews hooked me.
“We have to go on ‘Craft Wars,'” I texted a friend as I settled in to watch the first episode of TLC’s craft competition show, “Craft Wars.”
With the Martha Stewart Show out of production, Nate Berkus cancelled and HGTV more real-estate TV than home improvement, we need more DIY craftiness on television. And I had such high hopes for “Craft Wars.” But boy, what a disappointment this show has been.
Three weeks in, I’ve yet to have been so wowed by any of the projects to head to my craft room (or to Michael’s, the main sponsor) to make something I’ve seen on the show. The host, Tori Spelling gets under my skin; she has ever since Donna Martin got drunk and ruined the prom. This particular game show format makes it difficult to develop a rooting interest in any of the contestants, unless you happen to know who they are already and read their blogs. And more importantly, Craft Wars fails to showcase the true crafty talents of its contestants, like Mandi at Vintage Revivals, who was eliminated in round 1 of the junk drawer birdhouse challenge.
In my opinion, “Craft Wars” lacks key elements of “good” reality competition TV. And good crafting TV.
Good crafting TV is supposed to be inspiration and aspirational, offering up projects you’d like to try but that leave you wondering whether yours will live up to Martha Stewart standards or end up on CraftFail.
I’m not saying there isn’t some amazing crafting being done on Craft Wars — Kevin Chartier’s boogie board lawn furniture and Cheryl Burchett’s playhouse were well-executed. But the “Iron Chef” format of the show means that most of the projects aren’t ones you’d want to replicate. And the “secret ingredient” conceit doesn’t work nearly as well on “Craft Wars” as it does on “Iron Chef” probably because there’s not just one “secret ingredient” but many that contestants must incorporate into their craft: a whole junk drawer full of supplies; a mishmash of pet products, a shopping cart full of school supplies and oceans of pool toys.
I’m guessing that few people have ever made a recipe they’ve seen on “Iron Chef,” but that show keeps audiences entertained in a way that “Craft Wars” doesn’t. What’s the missing ingredient? A charismatic host/show runner who keeps the heat turned up in the kitchen.
“Craft Wars” borrow heavily from other successful and entertaining reality shows. But in my opinion, it never quite lives up to the originals.
The contestants have obviously been coached to play up the “craft wars” angle, but their bluster and bragging fall flat. The trash talking is just a little too friendly for a show called, “Craft Wars.” And where’s that “I am the greatest strut” we’ve come to expect from competition shows like this? Craft War needs more “Bachelor” bravado, more “American Idol” audition swagger and more pro-wrestling style putdowns.
I’m an unabashed fan of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and I admit that I watch in large part for the squabbles (real and dramatized) that develop between the contests. Nene Leakes and Star Jones; Gary Busey and Meatloaf; Lisa Lampenelli and Dayana Mendoza — now that was good TV!
With a new crop of contestants every week, it’s hard to find anyone to root for on “Craft Wars.” Even traditional game shows, like “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” bring back a reigning champion every night. But not “Craft Wars.” We have less than an hour to get to know the three crafters and their assistants. And as shows like “Project Runway,” “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “Top Chef” have proven, character development is a key element in “good” competition reality TV. Give us those characters we love — or those characters we love to hate — and we’ll tune in every week.
Finally, Craft Wars needs a catchphrase or some colorful colloquialisms. Reality/competition TV has given us some great ones:
“You are the weakest link. Goodbye.”
“You done got licked.”
“Make it work.”
“The tribe has spoken.”
“Now, sashay away.”
If Tori Spelling can’t bring on the bitchy as she gives contestants their sendoff, then certainly Glitterville guy Stephen Brown can come up with some catchy colloquialisms to make “Craft Wars” just a little more entertaining. I recommend he spend a little time studying Tim Gunn, Carson Kressley and Ronnie from Lizard Lick Towing for inspiration.
In case you’re wondering, I will be watching “Craft Wars” tonight. But I probably won’t enjoy it.
What do you think of “Craft Wars”?