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All the Crafts, Only a Small Part of the Deathmatch

Being a guy, I like to watch the occasional sporting event. It's not that I'm fanatical, you understand, but if a baseball game is on, I'm perfectly happy to watch it. Meanwhile, my girlfriend likes to watch craft shows. Again, you probably should be imagining someone who's out there subscribing to magazines to get the latest poop of "What's Hot in the World of Beads" or whatever; it's just that if she's already seen Deadwood and the Tivo doesn't have any interesting shows about surgery gone wrong, she'll tune in to HGTV or something.

So we were both delighted to see Craft Corner Deathmatch, which neatly combines sports and crafts for the Style Network. That's one of those triple-digit cable channels nobody's ever heard of. Their other shows include Fashion Police, Style Court (in the Style Network system, the people are represented by two equally important groups: the Fashion Police who investigate clothes and the Style Court that prosecutes the offencers),Whose Wedding Is It Anyway, and Guess Who's Coming to Decorate. They do like their clever show names at the Style Network, don't they? I can only assume that they've decided that since they're so obscure, they've got nothing to lose by being goofy. Naturally, I approve of this.

Craft Corner Deathmatch is basically a competitive crafting show: two contestants have ten minutes to make brooches out of candy or mosaic picture frames out of smashed plates or something similarly foolish. And then a panel of judges decides who did a better job, and that person gets some kind of prize. In essence, it's your standard DiY crafting show. During the crafting, there'll be a video segment in which a British voiceover explains how you too could do this at home, assuming you've always wanted to wrap your Christmas presents in stuff you had lying around the kitchen.

The clever (by which I mean "different for no earthly reason") part comes in the "Deathmatch" part of the title. The easy thing to do would be to do it up like American Gladiators, with theme music and Iron Chef entrances and the whole over-the-top ethos. But that's not quite what happens, although I confess I was kind of hoping the contestants would have to fight hand-to-hand with giant tweezers and chainsaws with handmade appliques. No, the main concession to the Deathmatch concept is: a loudmouth announcer. It's not at all unusual to have two normal contestants standing there in their aprons looking faintly embarassed while a shrieking maniac (Jason Jones, whose bio is pretty entertaining) carries on like it's Wrestlemania vs. the Super Bowl, being held in Thunderdome while the 2000 Recount is still going on. He's a little over the top, is what I'm saying.

But that's the brilliant part: that pretty much only the host (and the fifteen or twenty people in the audience) are being loud and Deathmatchy. It makes the contrast much funnier when he's shouting about the end of the world and the blood on the floor and the grudge-carrying and the trash-talking but the contestants are placidly making shoes out of wallpaper. When one of the contestants has emerged victorious, they have to face The Craft Lady of Steel, who (aside from not speaking) seems like a perfectly pleasant graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Frankly, the impression I get is that the producers had a normal show lined up and then Jason Jones came in to audition and didn't take the gig seriously (or took it much, much too seriously) and everyone found it hilarious and built the show around it.

There's also a helper named "Amber," whose job is to slouch about sullenly and bring out supplies. For some reason, "Amber" is played by Katie Tucker. I don't know why she's not named "Katie". She reminds me a bit of the unnamed Sullen Helper Woman on the terrible game show "Ultimate Film Fanatic". Anyone remember that one?

Okay, I seem to have gotten a bit off topic, which is kind of inevitable with Craft Corner Deathmatch. Because while it's a brilliant concept for a show, I find that a little of it goes a long way. Once I'd watched it three or four times, I'd gotten the joke (and enjoyed it) but I didn't really need to keep watching. It doesn't have the deep, ingrained weirdness of Iron Chef or even the new Iron Chef America (which features 100% less William Shatner and 100% more Alton Brown, so you should check it out -- hey, it's a special bonus mini-review!). Its weirdness is all on the surface.

It's shallow, but enjoyably so.


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