Nearly all of the best-loved science and fantasy universes, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, have one thing in common – unbelievable characters brought to life through special effects makeup. Generally, makeup artists go unnoticed, as by definition, the best makeups blur the line between fiction and reality so smoothly that the viewer’s suspension of belief kicks in and they no longer see the makeup as makeup at all. One show on the SyFy network seeks to change that and bring makeup artists the respect they deserve.

FaceOff is a reality show, pitting 12 makeup artists against each other for the chance to win $100,000 and a year’s worth of high quality theatrical makeup. In each episode, they are given a theme and three days to create anything from terrifying horrifically deformed monsters to strikingly beautiful angels, all from their own imagination. The creations are then judged by series judges Ve Neill (whose acclaimed theatrical makeups include Mrs. Doubtfire, Beetlejuice and Pirates of the Caribbean), Glenn Hetrick (owner of special effects studio Optic Nerve) and Neville Page (creature and concept design from films including Watchmen, Avatar, and the recent Star Trek films). The contestant with the weakest character creation is eliminated, and the challenges get more intensive each episode.

Unlike most reality shows, which get bogged down with unnecessary drama between contestants, FaceOff stands out for being strictly about the art. The contestants are quick to help each other if something goes awry and many form true, lasting friendships that carry out into their personal and professional lives. The judges are all helpful and kind and the show never relies on tired rating-boosting gimmicks – the contestants are all talented and the challenges are all interesting, and that’s all the show needs. FaceOff was the well-deserved winner of The Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Reality Series – Competition of 2015 and is easily my favorite show on TV right now.

FaceOff airs on the SyFy network on Tuesdays at 9/8 central.


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