In the weeks leading up to the July 16th Emmy nominations, Primetimer staff and contributors will be making our picks for which people (and shows) we think deserve recognition for their work this year. For your consideration today: Nicole Byer in Netflix's Nailed It! for Outstanding Reality Host.
For the past three years, RuPaul — the statuesque drag queen and one of the masterminds behind RuPaul’s Drag Race — has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Best Reality Host Emmy. After not even being nominated for the prize for years, Ru is on a winning streak, with few expecting him to lose his fourth in a row. It’s tough to be mad about this, because RuPaul is the kind of host we want to see win. He’s engaged, he’s creative, he’s going the extra mile both as a host and as a producer. But, as I said, he’s won three in a row now. He’s been rewarded.
Which means, even for as dyed-in-the-wool a Drag Race fan as me, it’s time for some new blood. Time to see someone fresh, exciting, and innovative in their work as a host to take home the crown. In other words, it’s time for Nailed It! host Nicole Byer — the best reality howt on TV right now — to not only be nominated for the Emmy, but take it home.
As host of Netflix’s cakes-and-comedy baking competition series, Byer is exactly the right fit. She embraces the ramshackle elements of a series that itself revels in the messy. If you’ve never seen Nailed It!, number one, why are you depriving yourself joy? And number two, you should know that on this show, perfection is not only undesired, it’s also unrealistic. Inexperienced chefs are tasked with recreating baking masterpieces, for which they have not the skills nor the time. They always fail, because the very point of the show is failing! And Byer manages to make that not a humiliating or demoralizing experience, but a fun, engaging, and ultimately uplifting one. And above all else, she’s hilarious.
Whether she’s realizing she mispronounced a contestant’s name repeatedly, or enacting an overly long fantasy about a winning contestant calling home to brag about their victory, Byer is never afraid to lean into a joke. She has excellent banter with her co-host, head judge Jacques Torres, with whom she’s quickly formed one of the best comedy duos on TV. Her absurdity and lack of experience pairs perfectly with his straight-man expert vibe, and they both indulge each other just enough. Best of all, Byer knows her limitations — she’s never gonna be the pastry expert on the panel — and instead simply plays to her strengths.
There are a lot of great reality hosts out there, but what’s most impressive about Byer (and thus makes her most qualified for the Emmy) is how the show works best because of her. Compare the original recipe show to Nailed It! Mexico, also available on Netflix. That spinoff is still fun, but lacks the same charm and magic. That’s because it doesn’t have Byer, our tone-perfect emcee, to elevate it. She is Nailed It!, as much as RuPaul is RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Bottom line: Byer deserves rewarding. Emmy voters, recognize her brilliance! In times as tough as these, we need her, and we need a show as joyous as the one she hosts. She’s the right bundle of sheer charisma for right now.
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Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles. Follow his musings and rantings on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.