We cheered for the release of Netflix’s Nailed It! Holiday!, because it meant new episodes of our adored reality baking competition show with very special guest stars like Jason Mantzoukas! But little did we know this holiday collection would end with the series’ very worst episode!
“Just Do It Yourself” was like the Grinch, crashing the party, stealing away our anticipated holiday delights and leaving us aghast. In a shocking opening sequence, all the cozy accouterments of the kitchen vanished. Canisters of chocolates, flour, royal frosting, and pantry full of loot-worthy pots were gone. In their place are spools of ribbons, spindles of thread, and a wealth of glitter. Our lovely host Nicole Byer appears and informs us this is a very special episode, where instead of baking, contestants will be crafting for the $10,000 prize. My eyes—still wide in dismay—took in the “amateur makers” who were invited to try their hand at building complicated crafts in a laughably short time. Like the bakers who’ve fumbled and chuckled in the Nailed It kitchen, this giddy trio was being set up to fail. But thanks to a gobsmacking slew of swap-outs, the fun is gone.
The makers were challenged to create a holiday diorama ornament, then a multi-faceted 3D ugly sweater. And at first, it seems like something they can handle. Rather than beginning with photos of their good tries gone wrong (as was the custom with the bakers’ intro), the maker introductions show spooky Halloween home-haunts, delightfully painted sneakers, and surprisingly DIY furniture. Bakers coming on Nailed It know they’re a mess at making treats. But by showing us their mishaps from the start, the audience is shown the joy is in the trying. However, by presenting us competent crafts from the start, our expectations are higher for these makers. Those expectations will soon come crashing down like so many clay reindeer on a merciless floor.
For judging, each maker’s ornament was presented in pieces, some hastily glued together, some lying out in a confounding puzzle. And though the reveals and rejoinders might sound familiar, the tone has changed as have the stakes. Normally on Nailed It, there’s the potential of redemption for the bakers. Sure, their offering might look a mess, but it might taste amazing! And once eating a yummy slice of cake, who cares what it looked like before?
That same turnaround isn’t at play in the DIY version. If the makers present a janky craft, the next step to impress the judges is to show that its gag works. In the case of the diorama ornaments, that meant they must be hung on a tree and light up. For the sweater, it meant that raising its arms would transform the wearer into a Christmas tree with a shimmery star on top. But each time, this second bit offered embarrassment more often than success: An ornament broke into pieces, and the makers themselves looking absolutely foolish modeling their failed attempts at the transforming sweater tree.
The degree of difficulty has increased, as the chance at a sweet redemption has decreased. When the bakers’ desserts have been devoured, the focus is on the flavor, which can give a sense of joy to every baker regardless of the end win. But here, once the makers have completed these crafting catastrophes, they can’t just gobble them up and move on. They’re THERE. And as someone who’s made her own share of less-than-marvelous crafts, I feel for these makers. As these crafts linger onscreen, I’m caught up in wondering what happened to them after? Will they be taken home as prized mementos of this strange experience? Maybe revisited then gifted? Or simply trashed? This pondering tainted the usually uproarious announcement for the win. But it’s not even the most alarming bit of this ep.
I’m also loath to report that Byer shines less brightly here. On Nailed It!, she’s proven herself a wildly charismatic host whose enthusiasm for baked goods and good times is so radiant that it’s contagious. But in this new premise, she seems bored. Byer laments the loss of the pantry full of treats and confesses to not caring about one contestant’s progress. And who could blame her! This hasty holiday retrofit has robbed her of one of her greatest assets and allies in Nailed It’s success! And no, I don’t mean Wes, though the curly-haired PA is also MIA!
Charming chocolatier Jaques Torres is gone! He’s been replaced by Jim Noonan, who we’re told is a master crafter who’s worked with Martha Stewart. I’m certain he’s quite accomplished. And sure, he’s a jolly-looking white dude. But Noonan is no Jacques Torres! He and Byer do not possess the effortless camaraderie, the same joie de vivre. Noonan, at best, seems amused by Byer’s jokes, not genuinely tickled. So, the joviality we’ve come to expect from the judges’ table has become subdued. And when Noonan gently chides her for calling a cave “a hole in a mountain,” it comes off less playful and more snarking. Which is not the Nailed It way!
Another problem is that this attempted spinoff puts Nailed It squarely against another 2018 reality TV competition, Making It. And while both were wonderful in the gleefully goofy celebrations of their respective hobbies, this new spin makes Nailed It suffer by direct comparison. On Making It, home audiences are encouraged to give their own DIY projects a go by watching passionate crafters take their media to inspiring new heights! And all along the way, the makers are cheered by adored comedians Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.
Nailed It was a bit more playful with its bakers, gently ribbing them over their subpar treats, but it felt like it was all in good fun because of the warmth of Byer and Torres, who treated every guest like family. Again and again, we saw bad bakers win little victories along with standing mixers, the golden baker’s cap, and $10,000. We rooted for them! And with each success, we were encouraged to make our own messy mistakes in the kitchen. Because you’ll never taste success unless you try!
Sadly, that message doesn’t follow through with this crafting Nailed It. Sure, there’s a big cash prize awarded, a golden toolbelt, and a happy victor, but by messing with their recipe of success, the show’s makers have baked an awkward concoction that’s left us with a bad taste in our mouths.
Header Image Source: Netflix