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Strip Search: Episode One

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In a way, PAX TV plays in the same sort of online playground as the webcomic that launched the franchise. Network television — nay, all television, including cable and the premium channels — may be walking dinosaurs like newspaper comics. To get any sort of ratings, TV has to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Smart TV shows are routinely punished by low ratings. And then … sometimes they push out ideas that are absolutely baffling. Did you know that there’s a celebrity diving show? Are there people watching this?  Online reports say the show got a  2.6 rating with adults 18-49, which is pretty decent.

I don’t understand you, viewers.

So it makes sense that there’s been some stirring on the online front.  Shows are appearing on YouTube.  Places like That Guy With The Glasses and Red Letter Media have gained decent followings.  And, even more recently, Netflix has gotten into the game with online-only content.  House of Cards has proven to be a modest hit, and the new season of Arrested Development is in the wings.  Can this be the next bold, new frontier?

It looks like Penny Arcade has gotten in the game, too.  Strip Search debuted on Penny Arcade TV some time ago.  It plays in that lowliest of TV formats: the reality show.  (Though there is a soft spot in my heart for these things.  I’ll have you know that I might have been the only person to devote blog posts about friggin’ Who Wants To Be A Superhero?)  This is of the more skill-based variety, a cousin to shows like Chopped, America’s Next Top Model, and Top Shot, where contestants are judged in skills based competition.  The goal: to win a one-year contract with Penny Arcade to draw webcomics for them.  In other words, this is the sort of show where you tune in to watch human resources at work in the hiring process.  Fun!

The first episode opens in Seattle.  This is my town, friends.   My back yard.  I think if I sneezed, you’d hear it on the soundtrack somewhere.  Shoot that probably IS true.  I’ve been spending quite a lot of time downtown showing some visitors on tours of the city.

Credit to the film crew: they did a good job high-lighting some of the lesser known local spots.  Like the Ducks Tour (that amphibious craft you see in the background).  And Bainbridge Island, I think.  I can’t wait for the episode where they visit the Gum Wall.

In fact, the Seattle of Strip Search looks pretty gritty.  No beauty shots of the Chihuly exhibit or a stroll down Bellevue to show the refined side of town.  In fact, if I didn’t know any better, Seattle on this show looks an awful lot like Portland.  Friggin’ Portland!  Gabe and Tycho are our hosts.  OK, I know thy have real names, but I’m going to go with the comic name because it’s far easier to remember.  Also, sexier.  As you can see abouve, one’s got the slouch and the gold necklace of a mafia hitman.  The other looks like a skinnier version of the guy from Mythbusters.  In other words, they looks exactly like their comic strip counterparts.

Anyway, they come off as sorta low wattage.  OK, I know this sounds a little mean.  You look a little jittery in your own videos, don’t you El Santo?  However, if you’re willing throwing yourself in a role involves being in front of the camera and presenting yourself potentially to the 7 billion people in the world, then you’re opening yourself up for criticism.  It really shows up later when the two joke that there’s a trap in the house.  It is really, really awkward.  I couldn’t tell if they were joking or trying to be ominous or being anything other than totally nervous.  I mean, I know that folks who get into webcomics are all total introverts, but man, Gabe and Tycho could’ve used some visual coaching.

We are introduced to some contestants, who are escorted to a secret location by being blindfolded with a bra.  Not even kidding.

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So this is one of those reality shows where all the people have to live in one house.  Now a lot of these folks have different jobs (and plenty have an art background).  It seems like a lot of them do journal comics.  I guess that makes sense; Penny Arcade itself is a journal comic at heart. I guess I would’ve liked to see some variety, though.  But maybe I’m just a little tired of this style of comic.  Given that everyone here is in their mid to late 20’s, I don’t know if I want to read another comic about being a hipster learning to embrace adulthood.

It strikes me that all the contestants are basically the same type of person.  Seriously, there’s more variety on America’s Next Top Model, and all of those women a skinny, young, attractive ladies who have to meet a certain height requirement.  This should come as no surprise.  Total introverts, remember?  They’re by and larg meek, exceedingly polite, and look fairly uncomfortable making eye contact.  They’re clearly trying to set Abby as either a villain or the tough contestant who doesn’t play well with others.  But when she says, “Too many creative people think their idea is the best when in fact it is my idea that is the best,” it sounds forced and a little apologetic.

Everyone here looks kinda the same, too.  There are plenty of neckbeards on the dudes, a smattering of pixie cuts on the gals, and black-rimmed hipster glasses EVERYWHERE.  Shoot, I actually stifled a laugh when host Graham Stark shows up, and he’s got a neckbeard and the black-rimmed glasses.  I actually felt a little out of place in this crowd because I’m personally styling a pair of rimless glasses.  Is that why everyone in Seattle gives me a dirty look?  Am I that out of bed with fashion?

Erika Moen the most well known of the contestants, when she shows up, I’m all, “What’s she doing here? Does she really need this? Will it be revealed that she is… the Mole?”

With that, the show ends.  The first episode is all introduction.  The contest comes ahead.  Oh, and a bunch of ladies swear at the end.  Because this is the internet!  You can swear now!  Oh man, so edgy.

Anyway, let me know if you want me to continue with this.  If so, I can power watch the next five episodes to catch up.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on March 22, 2013, in webcomics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I would love to hear you continue with this. Your perspective just seems to make me feel at ease knowing other people find some aspects of comics today just ridiculous.

  2. Of course there’s little variety – most webcomic artists who still have day jobs could never apply to be on it. Especially if they have families to support. This isn’t a criticism of the show, but it IS why the people are all going to be unattached 20 somethings limiting potential diversity.

  3. I guess the dilemma is the same as with the “Work of Art: The Next top artist”-show. That was mainly rather successful because the audience really liked playing an art critic, so from that aspect the show was kinda clever.

    But there was no avoiding the fact that the reality-tv format demanded that the contestants are also very emotionally unstable, feverishly seeking attention and being very egoistic overall. I don’t know if thats because of people like that deliberately being chosen to the contest for entertainment value (people love to hate something, which is why Jersey Shore is so successful), or that whether there were no reasonable normal people applying to the show in the first place. Can’t blame them, I know I would think twice of going to a reality tv-show which could potentially harm my career more than enhance it.

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