Imagine The Great British Baking Show meets Cake Wrecks, and you’ve got Netflix’s heartwarming and hilarious new show Nailed It! In each episode, this baking competition series pits three home bakers against each other in two challenges and then revels as they fail miserably to recreate insanely complicated recipes. I know, it sounds mean-spirited. But host Nicole Byer keeps things frothy and fun, even in the face of abject failure.
The bakers here have a shot at winning prizes like standing mixers, piping bag fanciness, a jacked up trophy, and $10,000. And sure, everyone would like to win. But like The Great British Baking Show, most of the contestants seem to have come for a good time. They all love to bake, and all realize they’re not great at it. So, there are no meltdowns as much as explosions of laughter from them and the judges as they reveal their final product while shouting, “Nailed it!”
What is revealed is usually an absolute disaster. But that’s not the point. The point is the fun of baking. The point is they tried at all! So, sure, Nicole may cackle at the horror show that’s meant to be a jelly donut pirate, but the contestant is giggling, too. Because really, we shouldn’t take food so seriously. And this atmosphere of shame-free silliness encourages the guest judges to loosen up too! My personal favorite is Silvia Weinstock, wedding cake designer to the stars. Not only did she scold the contestants for not sharing their vodka (a required ingredient for some nightmarish cake pops), but also she cruised the pantry, snatching up licorice and a fancy pot, because “If you’re going to steal, steal big!”
But the contestants aren’t left to their own devices. They’re given a paired down version of the recipe (very GBBS!), and there’s a panic button that gives them three minutes with one of the experts. Chocolatier Jacques Torres (who Byer dubs “Hot Jacque-olate”) swans in with his big smile and French accent, and helps with crucial advice. Or a struggling contestant can hit the Nicole Nags button, which sends the host into the other contender’s kitchens to annoy and distract them for three minutes. It’s basically that thing where your little sister yammered in your ear, “I’m not touching you!”
Meant to be obnoxious, it’s undeniably delightful because Byer is a total charm bomb. Whether she’s teasing the contestants, openly flirting with a cute production assistant named Wes, or outright mocking a guest judge who took off in the middle of the shoot to deal with a personal matter, Byer shines a light on the messiness of not just baking, but making a baking competition show. The edit doesn’t cut around these messier bits, instead, it embraces them as part of the show’s message and journey.
By refusing to take its competition, challenges, or contestants too seriously, Nailed It! created a sweet and stupendously fun show that’ll lift even the darkest mood. It’s wonderful, weird and warm. And once you bite in, you’ll want to gobble it all up. But here’s my warning: Skip the final episode. The second challenge is making a Donald Trump cake. And even with Byer’s barbs and the complete monstrosities that are born from this challenge, it never manages to be more fun than frustrating. Because yes, Trump can even ruin something that is an otherwise unrelenting joy.
Nailed It! is now on Netflix.