There are a lot of reasons to watch competition reality shows. Maybe you’re excited to see people hone a craft they’re really, really good at. Or maybe you just want to watch someone have an epic meltdown in front of all their competitors, a panel of judges, and a live studio audience.
Competition shows bring out the best and worst of people. I like the ones that are visually pleasing, with clearly talented artists who have to design/make/or craft something that has the potential to embarrass them and the person they’re draping/painting/tattooing it on. So here are my favorite reality shows — plus one book! — to binge on when you’re looking for a little not-so-friendly competition:
From the first moment Project Runway aired, I was pretty much obsessed with it. As was the rest of America. It was a competition show like nothing we’d seen before, where contestants were actually designing and sewing something beautiful (or sometimes disastrous) before our very eyes. Fourteen seasons and several spinoffs later, Project Runway has launched major fashion designers, catchphrases, and made Tim Gunn a household name. It’s still one of my favorite reality shows and probably will be until it goes off the air. Which, at this point, might be never.
Tattoos meet competition in this Spike reality show, where experts in the business show off their skills through various challenges. The tattoos range from awful to awesome, and the contestants either love or loathe each other. But the biggest mystery of Ink Master is how they can possibly get so many people to volunteer as canvases. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not need a giant neon popsicle on my leg. Regardless, this show is compulsively watchable and filled with talented artists.
Before Face Off, I didn’t even know that special-effects makeup artists were a real thing. I certainly didn’t know how insanely talented they could be, creating creatures and aliens and monsters that would blow anyone’s mind. In this reality show, contestants apply adhesives, masks, and body paint to win a bunch of different prizes. They’re not just tested on their make up ability, but on how imaginative they can get when it comes to creating concepts to fit each challenge. This show is awesome, especially for anyone who loves sci-fi/fantasy as much as I do.
Bang Bang: My Life in Ink by Bang Bang (Dey Street Book; November 17, 2015)
If you can’t get enough of Ink Masters, then read this memoir by world-renowned tattoo artist Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy. Chronicling his life as an artist, the book takes you from a small Delaware kitchen to breaking records by tattooing Justin Bieber at 40,000 feet. Read about how Bang Bang’s realistic style has changed the tattoo scene, and see pictures of some of his most iconic work. This book is a perfect gift for that tattoo lover in your life!