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Style’s 'Deathmatch’ Still Needs Tweaking

2/27/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

It’s billed right from the start as “the Hindenburg of home-ec classes.” So it’s clear from the opening credits that Style’s Craft Corner Deathmatch has the potential to, well, blow up.

Fortunately, the producers of this very-high-concept game show keep their tongues planted very firmly in cheek, which lets the viewer take the program’s frantic antics with the grain of salt needed to buy into its simple premise: a pair of craft mavens in a head-to-head duel to see who’s better at creating projects on the fly.

But that pedestrian backdrop is seasoned liberally with an extreme-sports flavor, from the stylings of host Jason Jones (Queer as Folk) and his Michael Buffer-meets-I, Max delivery — among his attempted catchphrases: “Let’s craft it up!” — to a set that looks like it traded spaces with MTV: Music Television’s Celebrity Deathmatch and Comedy Central’s Battle Bots.

The installment of the 13-part-series presented to reviewers pitted a Janeane Garafalo look-alike against a low-key, metrosexual male. As the pair squared off building candy broaches and scrapbooks, Jones egged them on, narrating and throwing in the occasional pointed jab. The action was interrupted for cut-aways to craft tips or other fun facts, presented in a campy way (including a piece on the history of scrapbooking that left the reviewer and two bystanders laughing out loud). Then, à la American Idol, a panel of crafting “experts” renders their verdict on which item is best.

After two rounds, the winning craftsperson then goes on to face the nameless “Craft Lady of Steel,” whose moniker leads one to envision a sort of “Mad Aunt Millie from Beyond Thunderdome.” Unfortunately, this is one area where Craft Corner Deathmatch falls a bit short — the Lady doesn’t say much and more disappointingly she doesn’t exactly exude a sense of menace. If anything, she resembles someone you’d expect to see sitting next to you on the bus.

And that’s somewhat ironic, given that Deathmatch’s other big sin seems to be that it tries too hard. Jones lays it on thick; his lovely assistant, the lethargic Amber (a goth Barker’s Beauty on downers) works a little too hard on her persona; and the contestants are overly pumped up at times.

A few minor tweaks could make Craft Corner Deathmatch a quirky hit in the vein of Food Network’s venerable Iron Chef. Judge for yourself, March 9 at 10 p.m. (ET) on Style.

September