One of the great things about attending San Diego Comic-Con is being introduced to hundreds–if not thousands–of new characters you have never seen. They come by way of cosplayers who have spent countless hours matching their wardrobe, armor, weapons, and other props to conjure well-known characters. Many are mash-ups of multiple characters. Some aren’t specific characters but evoke a time or place. Rarer yet are costumes cosplayers just decide to make of their own creations. It appears that it is this last group that will be featured on a new Syfy Channel series called Cosplay Meleé.
After the break, check out a preview of the new series. This is Syfy’s second foray into a cosplay-themed series. The first was Heroes of Cosplay, a short-lived show that filmed professional and semi-professional cosplayers preparing to compete at various comic book and pop culture conventions across the U.S. That show had the benefit of not being a Top Chef-variant series–viewers actually watched as the cosplayers built their costumes, usually based on characters from movies, TV, or anime, and they had the same time they would have in real life to build their cosplay. Certain contestants showed the positive side of cosplay, like the amiable contest winner Chloe Dykstra, and certain contestants… didn’t. A recent similar show began in 2015 on British Channel 4 called WTF is Cosplay?
The hook for Cosplay Meleé for many genre fans will be host Yvette Nicole Brown, co-star of the TV series Community. A make-up and special effects crewman from various movies (Christian Beckman) and a model (LeeAnna Vamp) will serve as co-judges with Brown. Four new contestants will be featured on each show, with a $10,000 prize at stake.
Cosplay Meleé is quite different from Heroes of Cosplay. It’s a Top Chef-variant reality show competition series. Will it work for the cosplay community–ultimately the real audience who will give the series a try? One of the basic tenets of cosplay internationally is lack of judgment of others–costumes reflect something personal about the cosplayer–and self-expression, like what character a person chooses and how he/she reflects that character, is at the heart of cosplay. Yet cosplay competitions open cosplayers up to criticism–reality show competitions even more so–and except for The Great British Baking Show all dwell too much on behind-the-scenes squabbles and snark. Watching that in action didn’t work that well for Heroes of Cosplay–the negative aspects circulated widely on social media, and the series fizzled away.
From the preview of this new series, a major oddity is that the costumes shown, at least at first blush, do not seem to reflect characters from Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, Sailor Moon, Game of Thrones (insert any franchise here)… anything familiar to a mass audience. Will that be the format for the entire series, or will contestants eventually be challenged to create their favorite alien character from Star Trek? Adventure Time? Dune? Disney, DC Comics, or Marvel Comics characters? Or is this an entire series of artists creating their own characters? One of the biggest attractions of cosplay contests is the success in replicating or evoking the feel for a beloved character held in common with other fans. Isn’t this really just another version of Syfy’s Face Off, which has aired for six years, and also featured make-ups and costumes in a competition format? Check out this preview for the new series:
Cosplay Meleé premieres Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at 9 p.m. Central.