Nailed It!: Season Three
Netflix's Nailed It! celebrates the joy of taking part, even if its contestants often run into severe problems in its baking challenges
For as long as we've been pitting people against one another for our televisual amusement, there have been TV cookery contests, their contestants impressing us all with their skill and creativity. Nailed It! takes a slightly different tack – this baking competition is all about what happens when people take a big swing at something they have very little chance of hitting.
Nailed It!'s format is essentially the same as every other show of its kind. Contestants take part in a small-scale challenge (to establish the contestants’ characters and help build a bit of narrative suspense) followed by a larger, more interesting challenge (where the shit really hits the fan) before a winner can be crowned. The twist here is that the amateur bakers involved really aren’t very good at the craft. It’s basically The Average American Bake Off.
It may be a well-worn set-up, but there’s something cheerfully post-modern and anarchic about Nailed It!’s execution. You can find it in the OTT sound effects, and the bizarre challenges faced by our contestants – ‘make a giant puff pastry bust of Napoleon’ isn’t the most absurd challenge set in this third series, and that says a lot. That energy is also present in host Nicole Byer’s references to the show’s streamlined budget – she tells a contestant holding an intricately-detailed cake that “there’s only one of these, so if you drop it… I don’t know what happens” – and the frequent appearances from stagehands and crew members as extra props in the unfolding carnival.
Byer and her co-host, award-winning French pastry chef Jacques Torres, are a brilliant double act. Torres is the straight man, offering helpful baking tips and critiquing the contestants’ technique, while Byer brings an absurd amount of vibrancy and fun to the simple act of sitting behind a desk watching people’s cakes go to shit then consoling them afterwards.
Where Nailed It! falls down is when it crosses the line from shambles to stitch-up. Some of the challenges are actually fairly tricky and complicated, and the time constraints on the bakers are borderline unfair at times. If you create the conditions for an absolute fiasco, that’s what you’ll get; see the contestant trying to staple two pieces of fondant together, or the cupcake which falls apart while the judges are critiquing it. But for those moments to land, they really need to come organically as a result of disgusting hubris or unforeseen calamity, rather than as a result of someone just not being very good at making cakes. Still, Nailed It! is a welcome change to much of the foodie competition on our screens, and proof that there’s plenty of joy to be found in simply taking part.
Nailed It! is now streaming on Netflix