I really hate reality TV — I saw a few episodes of the original Survivor when it first aired, and the petty bickering and the conniving and the efforts of the creators of the show to aggravate the conflict just completely turned me off. It was artificially Darwinian to an extreme. Every other reality program I’ve heard about since seems to follow the same vicious and invidious formula.
And then I stumbled onto Strip Search. I watched the first couple of episodes because I’m a fan of Maki’s webcomic, Sci-ence, and then found it addictive. The premise is simple and basically the same as a lot of reality TV programs: a group of people are set up in a house, and every day they are given a challenge to meet, the winner gets immunity, and two of the others have to up against each other in an elimination challenge…so the population gets slowly winnowed down to a final winner.
But here are the differences: the people are all webcomic artists. The challenges are all testing elements of what it takes to succeed with a webcomic, so in some ways its more like a training boot camp. Most importantly, all the people being tested seem genuinely nice; they get along, they aren’t scheming to screw each other over, they like each others’ work. The way the dynamic is set up, it’s the two show creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, who judge the work in the elimination rounds, who are the force of selection — so it’s not the players working to get each other kicked out of the house, it’s players cooperating against an external agent.
It’s very Kropotkinesque, and that makes it a pleasure to watch.
The final episode airs next Tuesday, so I don’t know who’s going to win yet (and the nice thing is, I don’t care; I got into it by following Maki, but I’ve gotten to like all of them), and I can’t spoil it for you. But it’s a webseries so you can easily start from the beginning.
I may have just consumed the entire weekend for some of you, who will start watching the whole series just now.