In a reality TV landscape that is overly inundated by singing competitions, dancing competitions and cooking competitions, the rare series that strives to go outside the box usually stands out. Take Fox's ongoing build-'em-up show LEGO Masters, in which Will Arnett and a pair of LEGO experts challenge teams of competitors to craft the most imaginative and innovative projects known to brick. I absolutely love it, and judging by the show's decent ratings, I'm not alone.
Below, I'll revel in explaining why LEGO Masters has quickly become my new favorite reality TV competition across the board. Thankfully for all involved, I'll be typing it all out rather than using LEGO bricks to form the words. Now, let's talk about why everything is awesome, and why everything is cool when you're part of a team. Wait, those are just LEGO Movie song lyrics...
Will Arnett Perfectly Balances Goofiness And Authenticity
Speaking of The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, it's star Will Arnett who landed hosting duties for Fox's LEGO Masters. Even though it's Arnett's first time serving as a full-season TV host in this capacity, he's a natural. In part, it's because he's a complete goofball who loves poking fun at reality TV's heightened tropes and stereotypes, such as the mid-episode TWIST. On the other side of it, Arnett brings a genuineness to his hosting that a lot of seasoned vets lose track of as years go by.
In any given conversation, he'll ask a silly question, then get legitimately choked up by a contestant's earnest responses, only to have to bring things back around with some quick-footed comedy. It's a fully rounded side of Will Arnett that isn't often seen in the obliviously confident and standoffish characters he plays. Arnett even brings up some of those characters during LEGO Masters, for those who enjoy shameless plugs en masse.
The LEGO Masters' Creations Are Absolutely Incredible
When reality television relies on craftsmanship as the artistry of choice, it allows for a completely different kind of tangible finished product for one to enjoy, as opposed to songs, dances, meals, ventriloquist acts, etc. Similar to shows like Face Off or Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, LEGO Masters relies on a skillset that includes a wild imagination, small-scale physics, precise dexterity and other physical and mental traits that aren't utilized as much in the TV sub-genre. And seriously, even the worst team efforts on LEGO Masters are still pretty outstanding in any context.
That those final displays can be so fantastical is because the producers give LEGO Masters' teams an exhaustingly long amount of time to put these projects together. As anyone who's ever worked with LEGO knows, this is not a toy meant for rapid, corner-cutting construction. It takes a long damned time to conceive and concoct a successful brick creation in any amount of time, so I applaud this show for not arbitrarily heaping unfair time constraints atop the other challenging aspects.
LEGO Masters Never Takes Itself Too Seriously
We all know that moment in a series like this where the dramatic music ramps up as a harried contestant looks into the camera and barks out, "I could be going home tonight!" It's a moment that happens in 90% of reality TV competitions, and it does happen in LEGO Masters to a minor extent. But none of these contestants are pretending as if being eliminated the most soul-crushing situation, even when it's obvious how crushed their souls would be if they lost. For the most part, everyone is humbled and extremely appreciative to be putting LEGO projects together for a TV show, understanding how inherently wild that idea is.
We've already talked about Will Arnett guiding things comedically, which obviously adds another layer of non-seriousness to the proceedings. LEGO Masters also brings in guest stars to keep things light and airy, such as Big Bang Theory vet Mayim Bialik or The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. (Guest stars that apparently have to stick around for many, many hours as the show films.) Plus, one early challenge involved making a LEGO creation that was meant to be destroyed by bat, by explosion or by fall, which perfectly set the tonal bar.
LEGO Masters' Team-Ups Add Feel-Good Emotional Drama
When I say that LEGO Masters has emotional drama, I'm not referring to repressed anger and uncomfortable projecting or any of the non-helpful ways that reality TV contestants often handle themselves in team-based challenges. (With the below entry being the exception.) In this show, the teammates tend to have deep and meaningful bonds that help keep things organized and dilutes the anger before it starts. Rather than seeing the above contestants Flynn and Richard screaming about what the other one is doing wrong, viewers watch as one gets tearful. at the thought of disappointing the other one. It's too damned adorable, people, and it's great.
Elsewhere you have best friends Mark and Boone, where one celebrates the other's impressive (non-competitive) singing skills, or brothers father and son Nestor and Manny, whose time on the show marked the apex of their bond over a shared love of LEGO. For people who do want lots of back-stabbing and Top Chef-level dunking, there are plenty of other shows for that, but LEGO Masters is the rare entry that wears its brick heart on its brick sleeve.
Bonus: "I Feel Like You Don't Understand LEGO."
Whenever the trailers for LEGO Masters started airing, one of the most fabulously ludicrous TV moments made its way to viewers' eyeballs. Of course, I'm talking about the moment where the initially hyper-touchy Sam gets frustrated with friend and teammate Jessie and delivers the be-all-end-alll of LEGO insults: "I feel like you don't understand LEGO." SNAP SNAP SNAP.
Just seeing it in the ad was amazing enough, but it was immediately necessary to watch that moment play out in real time on the show. Not quite on the same level as Colton Underwood jumping the fence on The Bachelor last year, because LEGO Masters didn't keep audiences waiting an entire season before it happened. But even though Sam and Jessie got on the same page after that moment, watching it is just as magical now as it was all those months ago.
It's the kind of line that should be immediately followed by an above-ground swimming pool bursting open and instantly flooding a backyard. "I feel like you don't understand LEGO." [SPLOOSH]
Do you guys agree with me? Let us know in the comments, and don't for get that LEGO Masters airs Wednesday nights on Fox following The Masked Singer, at 9:00 p.m. ET.