Making It is a ray of sunshine in this dark, dark world. Replete with can-do enthusiasm, dopey puns, and communal creative support, the show's second season comes to a close tonight, and I'm here to say that we need more of it.
The series debuted last year to strong ratings, earning itself a quick Season 2 pickup, but it finds itself in a more precarious position today after NBC decided to cram its entire eight-episode second season into just a week and a half. The results? Not so good. Ratings for the show are down, leaving its prospects for a Season 3 renewal now in question.
In retrospect, clearly the choice to unspool the show over such a short period of time in the midst of a truly bunkers December was the wrong one. Sure, if the show were on Netflix, the entire season would probably drop at once. But Making It is on linear television, where reality shows in particular tend to trade on word of mouth and the slow build of a season over time. As it stands, the show's fans can't help but feel like they've been rushed through Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It's tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment.
To sum it up for the uninitiated: Making It is a reality competition series that focuses on "makers," or people who specialize in everything from woodworking to balloon art to creating handmade craft projects. In each episode, co-hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman deploy a series of themed challenges — such as jazzing up a mailbox or creating an accent wall — while judges Simon Doonan and Dayna Isom Johnson (Etsy's resident "trend expert") scrutinize the results.
But those are just the raw ingredients. The show's flavor comes from its commitment to artistry and kindness. Like The Great British Baking Show, the series is more focused on its makers' individual skills and the joys of creating than it is in manufactured conflict.
And these makers are mind-bogglingly skilled. They can turn wood, foam, felt, and even peanut butter into incredible works of art, and it's wonderful to behold. Plus, they're all lovable weirdos who relish painting 500 clothespins to look like a beehive, and they support each other in a manner that would make anybody's heart grow three sizes. In almost every challenge, you see people helping each other finish their projects. In a team costume-making challenge this season, there was not a single televised fight or even a moment of stress. Instead, one team said they had so much fun that they were going to visit each other for Halloween so they could debut their costume in the real world. Can you imagine this happening in a team challenge on Drag Race, Project Runway or Top Chef?
Meanwhile, Poehler and Offerman are having a blast. They're often moved to actual tears as they witness what the makers can do, and they have a regular sidebar where they try to crack each other up with crafting puns. They also speak with Leslie Knope-like earnestness about how making things by hand can improve our lives.
For better or worse, this is one way in which the show feels much more American than Baking Show. It's hard to imagine Paul Hollywood stopping a signature challenge to underline the spiritual benefits of rough puff pastry. Making It also indulges in the American reality show fetish for giving each contestant an "inspirational" backstory. Everybody is here to inspire their kids or their mom or their granny. There's also a weird, ongoing apology about the $100,000 grand prize that's given to the winner. In the opening credits, Poehler and Offerman say that while that prize is cool, the real reward is a job well done. It's a strange tactic, since it just calls more attention to the money.
But whatever! There's enough humor, goofiness and honest-to-god crafting excellence to make Making It a genuine joy. If this season's blink-and-you-miss-it treatment prevents the series from getting a third season, that would be a tragedy. So please, NBC: a show this unique and heartfelt deserves the chance to build a bigger and broader following. We all deserve to share in the wonder of a craft project that makes Nick Offerman cry.
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Mark Blankenship is a critic and reporter who has contributed to The New York Times, Variety, and many others. Tweet him at @IAmBlankenship.