Making It is America’s answer to The Great British Baking Show, and that’s precisely the point. There are no simpler terms to put it in than that.
All of the things that make the British baking show a hit (recently here, thanks in large part to Netflix, and longer overseas), even a flawed aspect or two about its setup, are what make* Making It equally as good.
(*Yeesh! Uncomfortable annunciation.)
Chief among reasons for, first, the personal enjoyment and, second, real success of these shows is the communal, people helping people, vibe. It’s therapeutic. A handful of competitors are chasing patches, week-to-week, and ultimately a cash prize pennies compared to what most reality talent competitions are giving away these days. No competitor is above helping another finish their tasks, which represents correctly the crafting and baking communities that these individuals play around in. It’s been said before: It’s nice seeing people being nice to one another.
Pun-ny and funny are the hosts — for Making It, that’s Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. These hosts don’t have to be experts (the shows have those, though Offerman, in this case, is one), but what they do successfully is riff. Where Amy and Nick separate Making It from the baking show is their side skits — pun-offs, or the clever little episode-enders from the porch of their tiny house in which they involve the crafter eliminated that week. What NBC must be discovering, in case it didn’t already know, is that there’s an audience for anything involving Amy and Nick together. People like me miss Parks & Recreation everyday* and long for comedic timing of that duo.
(*Except when we have a DVD popped in for re-runs. Ahem, we’re on Season Six.)
What else? Both competitions take place in a field — barn and tent. Both shows are 30 minutes. There’s a star crafter or baker every week and someone is eliminated, which brings to mind what some consider a weakness from these two shows: the judges.
They never change. They’re the same each week. So, saying you’re making judgements solely on the current week is difficult to believe, but also kind of just silly to attempt. But I get it, each episode tests a different skill. One’s exceptional macaroons shouldn’t make it OK that they plated a disaster the following week. It makes it more unexpected who’s kicked off week to week. But if that’s the case, why not bring in a wider variety of judges if it doesn’t matter not knowing what’s happened in past weeks? I haven’t gotten any impression yet from Making It‘s judges, Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan, but there are weeks on the baking show when I think Paul’s definitely got it out for somebody.
The big difference here is how contestants are able to prepare — or, in Making It‘s case, apparently not. There were a couple mid-crafting emotional breakdowns on the episode title “All the Holidays at Once,” when it was mentioned that not only do these makers get no time and no heads up about their next task but also, apparently they get very little time off — not enough to see your family, whereas the bakers spend their weeks prepping and living their lives. You bet that’s rough, but maybe that changes as the show has the chance to perfect its structure.
Still, as a viewer, it’s fun to see these contestants dreaming up and bringing to life something you never could’ve imagined or done yourself. They’re not just someone singing a cover of a chart-topper you’ve sung a million times in the shower. It’s pure creation. That’s what makes it perfect.