Kitchen competitions might be one of the oldest forms of reality TV, with the same formula customized across countless shows. How could another one possibly be worth my time? Nailed It! is.
In a nutshell: If The Great British Baking Show had a child with Cutthroat Kitchen through a surrogacy with Weird Al Yankovic, you’d have Nailed It.
Ironically titled, the new Netflix series is “based on the internet phenomenon where ordinary people try to re-create masterpieces but don’t always get there," says host and judge Nicole Byer at the outset of one episode. It's the years-old #PinterestFail #NailedIt trend, on TV.
Three participants do their best in two rounds to replicate sweets inspired by one of the judges and hope to bag the big cash prize. From there, though, the show goes bonkers.
Bakes don’t just fail; they fail spectacularly. Real-life panic buttons and distraction cheats deny challenges any sense of seriousness.
TelePrompters and crew members steal scenes. There are ridiculous quotes, innuendoes and insults. Observe three moments, taken out of context, which were just as odd during the show:
“I really still think you’re in this, Heather. [whispers] You’re not.”
“Where’s the vodka?!”
“Is this a Cheeto?”
Your initial impressions could be unfavorable — the first episode starts weak, and the casual style won’t win viewers hoping (wrongly) for serious competition. But, keep watching and you’ll see what sets Nailed It apart: the subtle, near brilliant way it pokes fun at cooking competitions — and itself.
Old tropes are gleefully played up in the “big reveal,” the critiques and the French-accented judge. Then they’re destroyed: The critiques could be made by kids, the French judge knows he’s ridiculous. Heck, prize money is shot from a scanner gun and each 30(ish)-minute episode ends in a group selfie.
Cheeky self-awareness makes this show a breezy watch. It doesn’t take itself seriously, so why should you?
It's relaxed even in the heat of timed bakes, ideal for idle bingeing after a long day. Feel free to gossip, make yourself a few drinks, rummage through the kitchen, or even go pick up your kids and get coffee while you watch — after all, the judges do those exact same things.
The two main judges own the show. Frenchman Jacques Torres is playfully charming. And while host/judge Byer takes more than the first episode to grow on you, when she does she’s spectacular. She sings, she screams, she jokes, she drinks (frequently) — she’s all of us.
The contestants range from mildly annoying “professional dessert” caterers to endearing grandmas and memorable millennials. Still, the #PinterestFail bakes are the stars. “Psychedelic pirates” and horrific self-portrait cookies aren’t to be outdone, except perhaps by the (SPOILER ALERT) Donald Trump cake reveal that reduced this writer to a laughing mass of tears. (If you’re curious: The Trump-cake bakers were bipartisan).
Netflix offers six bingeable episodes of Nailed It!, available now. If Netflix lets this gem slip by without renewal, it will be the only failure that could surpass the cake that was, very nearly, an omelet.