This is a festive treat for anyone who finds gently-competitive skills formats – a la Bake Off – irresistible. And in the spirit of the season, these shows do as much good as they do entertaining, and informing. For traditional craft skills are in crisis. Cricket-ball making and gold-beating are already extinct in the UK, and the Heritage Crafts Association’s annual Red List finds over a hundred more to be endangered, many of them critically. To the rescue, ride your friendly neighbourhood streaming platforms, in this case Netflix.
We meet up with Andi, Alexander, Edgar, Cat, and Nao, contestants from the first two series of Blown Awaywho didn’t quite make ‘Best in Glass’. These aren’t newbies plucked from obscurity – see Disney+’s The Big Leap for a cockle-warming drama on that premise – but artists, students and workers in the glass trade. Their guides are interior designer Bobby Berk and Professor Katherine Gray, a glass-scrutinising Prue Leith. In familiar style, each episode sees the competitors responding to challenges by making an original glasswork from scratch in four hours. “My biggest competition is 22-year-old Edgar!” says Edgar, keen to burnish his skills with a blowtorch better than he did in Series 2. And the Christmassy prize? $10,000 to the winner’s charity, along with the same amount to the winner.
Must has been one of the first to review the Christmas special, but others have applauded earlier seasons, whilst lamenting that the show is hidden away in the depths of Netflix’s algorithm – hey, that’s why Must is here! Rachel Syme, writing in The New Yorker says “the whole thing feels a little like something you might have found on public-access television in the eighties—a ragtag group of artisans bumbling around a makeshift studio… But, for me, there is no better way to spend a too-hot summer day than holed up in my apartment, watching people melt sand.” Writing in The Guardian Stuart Heritage is both anxious at the complexity of the challenge of Blown Away, “this isn’t MasterChef, where you can wander into the kitchen after an episode and replicate some of the techniques in your own home.” And whilst he has some reservations, he says, “I am fascinated by it. I can’t stop watching it. I am only writing this to make you watch it, so I can have someone to talk to about it.”
Here at Must we agree with Bobby Berk the host of this Christmas special: you will be “sleighed” by this show. First shown December 2021.