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The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge Gives Contestants a Recipe for Success

There are no losers in this Netflix spin-off hosted by Nicole Byer.
  • Richard Sanchez and Robert Lucas in The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge. (Photo: Netflix)
    Richard Sanchez and Robert Lucas in The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge. (Photo: Netflix)

    No one can make a cake in 90 minutes. OK, maybe it’s possible to bake a cake, but an anti-gravity tea party cake or groundhog pop-up cake? No way. Yet that’s how much time Nailed It! gives its below-average bakers to put together delicious intricate creations.Compare that to a show like Food Network’s Summer Baking Championship, in which teams of two professional bakers get two hours and 30 minutes to bake and decorate similar cakes. It hardly seems fair.

    Failure is part of Nailed It!’s appeal, of course, and contestants are well aware that their skills leave something to be desired. Host Nicole Byer and judge Jacques Torres’ jovial natures help the series strike the balance between laughing with, and not necessarily at, the amateur bakers. But the $10,000 prize always goes to the best of the worst, leaving the runners-up with nothing, not even the ability to make a batch of mediocre cupcakes. The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge changes that.

    In its spin-off, Nailed It! evolves into a multiple-episode competition, giving 10 amateur bakers the chance to get better over time. Each installment features a Baking 101 challenge during which contestants follow along step-by-step with two baking coaches, Erin Jeanne McDowell and Robert Lucas, to learn some fundamentals of baking and cake decorating. It’s still a challenge for those who aren’t familiar with crumb-coating or piping frosting, which keeps things interesting (and messy). But at least it’s not an impossible task.

    When it comes time for the second, more elaborate challenge, the Cake Bake, contestants are given an appropriate amount of time to create something beautiful. For the finale, each of the final two bakers have 12 hours to prepare a show-stopping cake and two complementary treats. That serves the competitors well, especially because the stakes are much higher. While the winner of each episode of Nailed It! walks away with $10,000, the winner of The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge takes home $100,000 — it makes for a much more dramatic use of the money gun at the end of the season.

    Even those who are kicked off aren’t sent home empty-handed. After being eliminated, contestants can raid the Nailed It! pantry, leaving with high-end baking equipment and supplies to use what they’ve learned at home with proper tools.

    This approach not only better serves the bakers on the series, but viewers who could use a baking tip or two. On original recipe Nailed It!, the professional baking demonstrations and tips are more often than not oversimplifying a complicated project (you can’t make a T-rex cake in just seven easy steps, no matter what you say, Jacques!) or cheekily stating the obvious. But during Baking 101, the experts dole out tips that are actually helpful and easy to understand. (Apparently you have to level a cake before stacking it, who knew?). To avoid taking the fun of the original series, the Baking Challenge strategically deploys these lessons so there are still plenty of grotesque creations to behold before the bakers come into their own.

    But that turning point is satisfying to watch, as well. Suddenly this series based on an internet trend becomes emotionally rich — seeing an amateur baker finally say “Nailed It!” in earnest is almost enough to provoke a tear or two. With The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge, Netflix has managed to transform one of its silliest series into a uniquely inspiring and utilitarian baking show without losing the absurdity that made the original so fun to begin with.

    The Big Nailed It! Baking Challenge is streaming on Netflix.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: The Big Nailed It Baking Challenge, Netflix, Nailed It!, Jacques Torres, Nicole Byer

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