Jeannie Mai and the Steampunk'd cast. Image courtesy of GSN.
We’ve got a favorite new reality TV competition series — Steampunk’d. We know that’s a bold statement, what with all the TV we watch. But this one show combines almost everything we like about reality TV in one colorful, offbeat package. It’s one part Project Runway, a bit of HGTV Design Star, a touch of Flea Market Flip and a dab of Face Off all rolled into one.
Each week, the makers on Steampunk’d are tasked with not only creating a complete room, but also a costumed character to go in the room and a working gadget to fit that week’s theme. If only the character had to prepare a meal, all our favorite reality genres would be covered. Maybe next season.
For now, suffice it to say the contestants on Steampunk’d have their work cut out for them each week and show an incredible amount of creativity, ingenuity and a bit of wackiness as they carry out each assignment.
Although we don’t know a lot about the Steampunk genre, we do know it harkens back to one of our most treasured TV experiences as kids — The Wild Wild West. The show starred Robert Conrad (before people were knocking batteries off his shoulder) as James West and Ross Martin as Artemis Gordon. The pair would craft all sorts of disguises and gadgets in the name of protecting President Ulysses S. Grant, all set on the backdrop of a steam engine. The Victorian-esque gunslingers were Steampunk before the genre even had a name.
While there are no bad guys to foil on Steampunk’d, there is a lot of drama. This is typical to any reality show where teams are made up of very unique individuals, asked to collaborate to create a work of art.
In a recent one-on-one interview Steampunk’d host Jeannie Mai (The Real and Extra) noted that she and the judges were “blown away” by the talent. She stated, “They’re carpenters, they’re fashion designers and we even have a pastry chef. And it’s just crazy to see their everyday skills that they did at home be brought to life here on set. They have one junkyard. They have three days. And they’ve got a whole lot of imagination.”
Jeannie described the genre itself. “Steampunk is so much more than a fashion. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a way of living. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of repurposing… Steampunk, thankfully, is not something you buy. It’s something you create. It’s imagination. It’s a world that you’ve got to build around yourself.”
She has been interested in the lifestyle since she first discovered it as a teenager in the Bay Area and when she did, she recalled, “I wanted to jump in right away.” So when she found out GSN was doing a Steampunk show, she said, “I know a thing or two about this. I’m in.”
As witnessed in the first three episodes of the series so far, there are various subcultures of the Steampunk genre, for example Asian Steampunk, used as the theme in the recent bedroom challenge. Jeannie noted, “These guys are able to invent their own lifestyles, their own look about everything. It is very, very, very alluring and unique in its own way. Because it’s such a world that lives between the Victorian era and science fiction the styles go far beyond those lines with different versions.” And so despite having some very specific skills and styles she added, “No maker was left safe because every style was always different.”
As host of the show, Jeannie gets to watch with awe as the makers create a new world each week. When we asked her how she would do as a contestant, she replied, “I think I would do, not as great as these guys because I’m not as patient… but I have the imagination and I have good leadership skills, so I could get everybody whipped together. And I’d tell some of those contestants ‘Stop being a little bitch.’ That’s for sure. I would not waste time.”
Jeannie embodies the Steampunk philosophy and encourage everyone to be creative. She stresses, “I’m passionate about imagination. I think that if you ever start to just follow trends in magazines and you don’t live experiencing your own life and making it, you’re going to fall into the plastic mold that is out there. I think it’s important never to lose your imagination.”
Steampunk’d airs Wednesday nights on GSN at 10 p.m. ET/PT (9 p.m. Central).