Going on at Penny Arcade right now is a new web-based reality show about a group of cartoonists all vying for a shot at being brought on as a artist for the webcomic/videogame news site. It’s called Strip Search and it’s surprisingly engaging, in that for being hindered by the genre of “reality show,” it’s still really good.
The thing about it is, none of it seems really forced. Of course editing tricks are used like any other series, but in this the contestants aren’t characters defined by conflict between each other as they compete for the grand prize. These are people who have come together in search of something greater than themselves; a dream. A large portion of the people in this aren’t professional cartoonists. They can only get to it in their spare time. So everyone is connected, instead of being pulled apart, by this common thread. Compare that to any other reality show ever. Manufactured conflict. People screaming themselves into a stroke. Tables flipped, people assaulted, arrests made, and nothing learned. Because that sells to an instant gratification audience looking for a societal catharsis, or someone to look down on, to laugh at. This brings people together. Because the emotion is more “honest” than other shows ( re: editing tricks) the contestants are more relatable. More relatable means more likely to continue watching.
Not to mention they’re all really good artists, and if anything this is a good behind the scenes into how some comics are produced. The time pressures endured just speed up the process. But it is a reality show so it’s not always about art. Even watching Bob Ross, sometimes you don’t want to look at the art because that afro just so entrancing.
If anything it’s definitely a good way to kill time on the internet, assuming you have access to your computer’s volume at the time. It’s something all reality television could learn something from, when the new lineup of generically attractive people are grouped together to compete in some arbitrary contest for an arbitrary prize in an arbitrary place and everyone starts fighting with each other arbitrarily. It’s boring. Drama only derives itself from natural conflict. People laugh because the drama on reality television isn’t natural because it’s derived from stupid things. So here’s a show that’s drama comes from people’s natural emotional response. There isn’t that much crying, but there’s frustration and anger and jealousy and laughing and a connection that isn’t easy to come by, even in fictitious shows. Strip Search is uploaded every Tuesday and Friday on Penny Arcade.
Watch the first episode below: