On Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman won our hearts as the loving but deeply different pals, Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson. But their real-life friendship comes to the fore in the deeply delightful reality TV competition show, Making It.
Imagine The Great British Bake-Off meets Nailed It meets Etsy, and you’ve got NBC’s Making It. Poehler and Offerman co-host a crafting competition where creative folks who work in fabric, wood, paper, and a bit of everything come together to tackle challenges and share in the pleasure of making art. The season winner will get a hefty cash prize and the title of “Master Maker.” But along the way, they’ll face fun challenges, and pick-up achievement badges as if they’re members of the Pawnee Goddesses!
Though there is money on the line, the focus of the show is far more about the joy and community of crafting. Contestants in episode one had an exhilarating lack of competitiveness. Like Great British Bake-Off, they were more excited to be sharing their beloved hobby with like-minded souls than concerned about their competitors. One contestant volunteered to help another finish before time was up. And when two crafters realized they’d chosen the same subject for their “secret beast” challenge—in which they must make a 3D representation of the animal they feel best symbolizes their personality—instead of worrying whose would be best, they cheered each other on, proclaiming, “I support your energy!”
To all this merriment and supportiveness, Offerman and Poehler are perfect MCs. Offerman’s a craftsman himself, running a solid sideline with his woodworking business. He’s the Jacque Torres to Poehler’s Nicole Byer. She may not know a lot about the subject at hand, but she’s got a lot of enthusiasm and jokes! Together, they bridge the gap between the very crafty and intrigued newbies, bringing an earnestness and education through curious questions and swift explanations. Then there’s silliness like Offerman identifying wood by scent, and the pair of them having a pun showdown, where Poehler wins handily with wordplay like, “I macramade you and I could macra-break you just as easily!”
Keeping things light, Poehler and Offerman aren’t the judges. Instead, they brought in Etsy trend-spotter Dayna Isom Johnson and Barney’s window display designer Simon Doonan, experts in crafting to weigh in and do the sad bit about sending someone home. But even this is done with a great amount of love. The first to go home cried, but told the camera how deeply they appreciated this experience and they valued the people met along the way. And hey, bonus, the person sent home gets some fun one-on-one time hanging out with Poehler and Offerman, so who’s the real winner here?
Still, it’s not all joy and warmth. In the main challenge this week, the crafters were asked to make an heirloom quilt out of non-traditional materials. And contestant Jeffrey Rudell, an older gentleman with a cheerful disposition and an astounding skill in shaping paper, confessed heirlooms were a tough subject for him because his parents disowned him for being gay. Rudell said his parents went so far as to send him a black funeral wreath to his workplace, that said, “in memory of our dead son.” It’s a harrowing revelation that knocked the wind out of me. But Making It gives Ruddell the respect of sharing his story, and then allowing a beat for breath, for it to sink in, and for us to recover before he shares how this trauma has inspired his work.
Often on reality shows, intimate reveals like this can feel exploitative or staged. But here, it felt sincere, coming out naturally into a safe space where people want to know you and see your heart through your art. It made perfect sense to me that when asked to create something deeply personal, and greeted by the unbridled exuberance of Poehler and the powerful warmth of Offerman, you’d share something this personal. There’s a healing in sharing such stories, just as there is in being true to yourself and crafting something beautiful. And all of this is resplendently celebrated in Making It.