We've come to know cooking competitions as scream-fests – heart-wrenching and nail-biting even if you're watching from the couch.
But Netflix's attempt at reality TV, a baking competition titled Nailed It!, defies categorization. It's corny and realistic, the feel-good baking show society needs.
The Netflix series premiered in early March following a trend of releases heavily focused on sci-fi like Black Mirror and Stranger Things. It's already been renewed for season two. Nailed It! is a cooking competition for amateur bakers — think Cake Wars or The Great British Bake Off minus the flaunt — that at times resembles a comedic masterpiece.
Each episode features host and comedian Nicole Byer of MTV's Girl Code, French pastry chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres and a celebrity chef guest star. In roughly 30 minutes, viewers watch competitors attempt to make fancy desserts — unicorn cakes, pirate donuts, among other treats — and epically fail. It's a laugh-out-loud production of kitchen mishaps, crude jokes and cooking attempts gone awry.
Nailed It! is structured differently than most cooking competitions. In Chopped or Food Network Star, competitors aim to attain perfection and fight to topple competitors. These niche cooking shows are stressful and nail-biting for competitors and viewers alike, and the competition style elicits arrogance and narcissism.
While Nailed It! is definitely nail-biting, competitors also acknowledge their amateur capabilities. Even when they argue, there's a sense of community. This communal aspect not only differentiates Nailed It! from other cooking shows but enhances viewer enjoyment.
At first, Byer is clever, snarky and sensational. She motivates competitors, showering them with encouragement. Unfortunately, as the show progresses, Byer becomes irritating. In the first episode, there's a "Nicole Nags" button, which the "loser" of round one earns. When pressed, Byer flops around the kitchen, annoying contestants, screaming in their faces and rambling.
Presumably, the "annoying host" is an attempt to differentiate and stray from the classical model — refined, restrained and unbiased. But it's futile and, frankly, ear-aching.
Regardless, Nailed It! proves that clumsiness triumphs. In the final scene, as Byer shoots $10,000 at the winning contestant, all rejoice. There's no sore-loser crying. There's no resentment. Nailed It! highlights the power of a good sense of humor and the importance of a little imagination.