“Blown Away: Christmas” Review: It brings all the stars back to the hot shop for a holiday challenge

When we play soft music, we see the empty Hot Shop, the gallery on the other end, blacked out.

The gallery lights shone, and the glass wall in front became transparent:

Then slide and reveal stunning glass art participants created in just a few hours using solid glass rods, assistants, and a 2,100-degree oven. This is a lovely shot from Blown Away: Christmas, as the camera scrolls through a workshop. Which is full of festive decorations and the door opens to reveal glass art with a festive and winter theme.

Before any of this happens, the on-screen text says “gift”. While it technically means “presentation”, there’s a double meaning that fits perfectly into Blown Away: Christmas (Netflix, Friday). Which is a lovely four-episode treat coming this week.

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For this short four-episode season, five alumni have returned from the first two seasons: Kat Burns, Andy Kovel, Alexander Rosenberg, Edgar Valentin and Nao Yamamoto. It’s mini star season, and it works flawlessly.

You will compete in four challenges, and in the end. The winner will receive $20,000 and $10,000 in cash and $10,000 for charity, a great way to share low prices. (People are getting $10,000 for three plates of food at Chopped. Come on, Netflix: give the artists money!)

The challenges are fun, from making gifts to making decorations that match the whole tree in just a few hours.

The Blown Away set is ideal for the Christmas season: ice storage, snow, smoke from the chimney, turning into a warm interior with snow drifting on the windows. (The Heat Shop was built in a warehouse in Hamilton, Ontario, known as the Cotton Mill.)

The show team did a spectacular job redesigning the interior. The artificial Christmas trees and birch trees, wrapped in flashlights, lined the room; flat glass socks hung by the fireplace; and other decorations abound to complement the brick walls and wooden beams above them. I want to live there and not even because of the fame hole.

All of this was beyond the reach of the artists. So it was just a backdrop but added more metaphorical warmth to the interior.

Blown Away Christmas: New hosts, same focus

Blown Away: Christmas replaces Season 1 and 2 host Nick Uhas, former big brother, with Bobby Burke, a longtime member of Queer Eye’s new team who tends to work off-camera and make spectacular changes in space while his castmates relate to episode theme.

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Bobby Burke previously reviewed guest appearances on Blown Away and is a top guest reviewer. In this specialization, he gives appropriate feedback and at least recognizes his preferences, for example, his reaction to a competitor’s colour palette.

This season, Burke is only one of two judges for the competition alongside local judge Catherine Gray. There is no flue gas, possibly due to shortened production schedule and COVID-related restrictions.

Catherine’s knowledge and experience are excellent, as always, and I appreciate that Bobby at least admits his lack of knowledge of glassblowing: “How do you do corner stuff?” He asked her. “That hammer thing?” And hit it and flatten it and all that? All technical terms, that’s why I’m here, Catherine.

As the host – did I mention Bobby Burke is good at judging? Sometimes the show’s awkward snippets don’t go well with a flat presentation, and together they spectacularly kiss the big winner’s revelation in the least clichéd fourth episode.

There is so much so that the winner seems to have missed the announcement.

I appreciate Blown Away, although I’m disappointed that TV shows are still less interested in the glassblowing process than I am.

Just like in the case of the first two seasons, the judges didn’t explain their decision to us or the cast; If Jesse Palmer can sum up in a few words what’s excellent or bad about cakes, Blown Away can too.

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In the first episode, Montage cuts up Nao to make candy – how does he do it?! – on the balcony, where Catherine Gray asks Bobby Burke, “Which gift from your past made the most sense?” I don’t understand why it’s more interesting than watching or studying the creative process.

But I still appreciate what’s being created and the art and skill that goes with it, despite the physical labour, and I’m grateful that Blown Away: Christmas has given us more time with these artists.