Respect for a craft and a lack of silly reality-TV theatrics puts art at the forefront of Netflix’s new show.
The Netflix reality show is not exactly a refined art form, which you’d think would make it incompatible with such a delicate art as glassblowing. On that note, does anyone aside from glassblowing enthusiasts actually know anything about glassblowing, beyond its artistic and occasionally abstract results? I suspect not. And if that’s the case, Netflix’s new series Blown Away has you covered. It’s a gently competitive and refreshingly unsensationalized look at the making of art in an incredibly specific and intricate way, and the promise of lucrative prizes for the winner helps bring those elements to the surface.
When you build a show around something like glassblowing, there’s always a tricky balance to find between clueing the audience in on what they’re seeing while letting the personalities of the contestants come to the forefront. Blown Away finds that balance well, allowing us to see the imagination behind the designs, the preciousness and fragility of the craft, and the pride of the presentation. These are all elements given equal weight within the process, but luckily the end results speak for themselves.
Some of the pieces constructed throughout Blown Away are stunning and made more so by a shared knowledge of not only the process of its creation but what it means to a particular artist. Through expert judges who clearly haven’t been given the tiresome mandate of being as harsh and snarky as possible, viewers are able to appreciate the processes — thought and physical — that bring these ideas to life. There’s something to be said for allowing a craft itself just as much time and attention as the crafter, and the competitive reality format strikes me as a particularly good place for it.
Will its subject limit its audience? I have no idea. I’ve never met anybody into glassblowing. But almost everyone I’ve met has an appreciation for craftsmanship, skill, hard work and beauty, and Blown Away revels in those things. If Netflix are going to consume the reality-TV market as they have many others, I hope it’s with more shows like this.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.