I cursed the day when man filmed the first reality show.
There’s nothing more annoying than someone being followed by a camera and talking useless trivia.
But I didn’t realise that reality shows also spanned to people with a purpose (and I’ve been watching Pawn Stars all this time).
The latest, and surprisingly inspiring, is Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge on SyFy channel.
For a fantasy writer like me, coming across this show was like tripping over an ancient Egyptian vase in your back yard.
Who is Jim Henson?
So in case you didn’t know, Jim Henson is the creator of the Muppets. He also created several characters in Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and the Storyteller, and his studio produced movies like Dark Crystal and the Labyrinth.
While he passed away several years ago, he left quite a legacy.
In the reality show Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, several creature designers have been gathered from around the world to try and out-imagine each other.
Competitors make creatures based on some criteria like hiding in plain sight of a forest or becoming one with a junk yard, and are judged by several professionals of the industry, including Brian Henson, Chairman of the studio and son of Jim Henson.
Now these creatures have gone far beyond the puppets of the last century. I’m sure Jim Henson himself would run for the hills screaming if he saw what technology today is capable of.
They come in all types of skins and textures, lurking and crawling, sneering and grunting. Some have long tendril-like tongues, some have snapping beaks, and some even have smoking pipes.
In one scene, a submarine has ventured 3 miles below the ocean surface where creatures have evolved into every shape, colour, and under water function you can think of. The challenge is to design and create an original sea creature that is discovered on the ocean floor by the search light.
If you can’t imagine what kind of creatures could exist down there, then you need to look at this show.
But It’s Not the Creatures Themselves That’s Inspiring
While the creatures are cool, there’s something even more interesting.
They all have such great back stories about their appearance and their purpose.
One is called the root breaker, a creature with wood-like skin and spiny limbs. They walk around at the beginning of their lives, but at the end of life, they settle down at the roots of trees and eventually calcify, becoming part of the root structure.
Another creature, known as a Skeksis, was banished to the Decaying Forest for a thousand years and has now been called back home. Being in that disgusting forest for so long transformed its body in a terrible way. It limps on stage with a decayed face and a milky right eye, moss and mushrooms growing on its back.
The one I really loved told the story himself, complete with dramatic hand movements. Two hundred years ago his species perfected genetics, making them stronger and more resilient, but also causing a deadly virus that wiped them all out, except for him. Now the last of his kind, he created an embryo that is his child, sealed it in a cylinder, and is searching for someone to give it away to because if it grows up around him, it will catch the disease. The thing even cries when he gives it away. Genius.
So, if you’re looking for something creative to watch, and you don’t mind reality shows, give Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge a try.
You may hear a great story that you never forget.
What do you think of reality shows? Is there any that you watch (I promise I won’t judge)? Let me know in the comments.