The show is your requisite single serving cooking competition akin to Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen, shitty shows about cooking that is more about theatrics, presentation, or dumb antics instead of genuinely enjoying the art of food. They aspire to create things that are supposed to look and taste good over being entertaining television. It’s something you watch while doing something else or when you are home for the holidays, starved for creative content. It’s not good entertainment.
Where Nailed It differs is that it’s not directly about baking: it’s about aspiring to bake. The show pits three people against each other without eliminating anyone and gives them absurd challenges like having them create a cake that looks like Donald Trump or erecting a functional volcano cake in an hour. The bakers always fail at the task, do their darnedest to be a good sport, and create results that are so fucking laughable – and that’s the point. Everyone knows they aren’t good at cooking but they are doing their best, hoping that some miracle will happen that their projected baking self will match their literal baking self. The difference between this and the new brand of “You’re so bad, LOL.” cooking shows like Worst Cooks In America is that Nailed It doesn’t try to correct or shame these chefs but respects them for trying and then kindly shares what they might have done to make their try better. It’s the equivalent of “You’re doing amazing, sweetie.” the show.
That’s what makes it like The Great British Bake Off: it’s a well of positivity in the kitchen. The difference is, unlike an English show about classic baking aspirations, this show is rough around the edges, acknowledging that America and Americans are a knockoff people with a knockoff food culture. Should their sport be a serious tackling of classic foods? Fuck no. Pair that with personalities a bit too prepared for television and you will never have a Bake Off equivalent, no matter how hard some networks try. It just doesn’t work.
Nailed It? It’s like eating chocolate covered cotton candy for dinner with a side of maraschino cherries. It’s like drinking a strawberry daiquiri as a reward for taking a bath in a piña colada. It’s like getting a cheap wine drunk cooking with a group instead of ordering pizza. It’s that kind of fun and is produced to embrace the non-diet-friendly mania.
It’s also fucking hysterical. The results are always disastrous and, despite how many times you have cruised Cake Wrecks, what is made on the show is lightyears beyond anything you could have imagined. And people on the show are genuinely trying! No one is fucking around: people are doing their best despite shit circumstances. Sounds like a fitting American metaphor, no?
With terrific hosting talent like the infectious and funny and ridiculous Nicole Beyer and legitimate chef and cutie patootie French bootie, Jacques Torres, the show functions as a sort of anecdote to serious cooking shows or their non-serious-but-serious counterparts. It’s lighthearted and happy and doesn’t want to be anything else but that. Where Bake Off aspires to be pure content dedicated to the art of British baking, Nailed It aspires to be the sardonic American equivalent that just wants dessert, no matter how it looks.