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Oxygen Network’s New Street Art Show Is Fucking Terrible and There’s No Reason To Ever Watch It Again

On Tuesday night, the Oxygen Network debuted its new, horribly promoted street art show and unsurprisingly, it was just as bad as the trailers and chatter about it suggested. Look, I get it. You have to dumb things down for television, and for content like this to be successful, it needs to be a caricature of the real thing. But at this stage, street art has nearly become a caricature of graffiti. So now what?

Like many reality show formats, Street Art Throwdown was purposely designed to be contrived: The physical challenges are meaningless. In one challenge, contestants climb down a ladder to some subterranean space that’s supposed to mimic a subway tunnel or something. The manufactured drama amongst participants and the motley cast of characters who don’t appear to know fuck-all about street art do make for great rodeo clowns, though. In one scene, the artists are told to pick out their paint supplies and run to the spot where they’ll be painting. One of them takes a spill. The camera pans toward the artist as if something meaningful just happened.

It’s as if executive producer Justin Bua, a moderately-known fine artist desperately trying to break into the TV game over the past few years, essentially copy-and-pasted the formula that made The (White) Rapper Show so bad, and ran with it. Similar to how that show never had any real intention of cultivating or promoting the many talented legit white rappers out there and instead assembled a bunch of no-name nobodies, Street Art Throwdown did the exact same. I remember looking at the TV blankly and thinking: who are these people? Oxygen Network — which claims the show is part of its exciting new rebrand and attempt to reach younger viewers — is basically setting up a bunch of fame-seeking, semi-artists to be ridiculed by a not-so-relevant judge, who was never really considered a street artist and an unknown gallerist with absolutely no credibility. None of these people should be let near a camera, let alone a cable TV show.

How else does Bua explain selecting street artists who admittedly aren’t street artists?!? In one of the challenges, a young woman named Marley was fingerpainting… with spray paint. “Spray paint isn’t my forte,” she quipped. Sigh. Another participant openly admitted in an interview that she only answered the casting call because her modeling agency told her to. WTF is going on here? Who is this riffraff? Why didn’t Oxygen try to tap any legitimate street artists like Jay Shells, Elle, Roycer, Brandon Sines, or any number of people actually pursuing real art careers who could use the exposure, the $100k prize money, and just maybe, would’ve made the show a lot more interesting?

For anyone really interested in graffiti and street art, I can’t imagine a worse touchpoint than this show. The bottom line is that virtually everyone is going to not like this show, from the most mainstream of street art fans, to street artists themselves, raising the question: who does Oxygen really hope will watch this crap? It’s not even a good hate-watch.

Some things just don’t belong on TV.