When I think of American competition reality shows, I think of twenty people who’re willing to rip each other’s kneecaps off in order to secure a grand prize of $10,000. I think of constructed reality, where only the strongest heroes and villains make it to the final weeks, due to in-house voting from the judges.
Contestant: Well — I have made a perfect, one acre soufflé. I baked it in my hand-made wood burning stove in my garden and —
Judge: Hmm, it’s good — but you weren’t willing to call Courtney a bitch, when she so obviously is, so we’re eliminating you this week. Ah-byeeeee!
Making It, however, follows the Great British Bake-Off model of competition reality, in that all competitors are usually likeable, and in-fighting isn’t a thing. Your rivals are far more likely to help you hold down a piece of wood for your emu house, than sabotage your knitted scuba suit.
Instead of baking buns, breads and baklavas, the Making It contestants must construct various craft items against the clock. The show is structured in an almost identical way to GBBO, complete with an individual set in the middle of a country field, workbenches where everyone can see each other’s progress and hosts with a background in comedy.
Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman helm the show, which is a huge thumbs up for the programme. The pair have natural chemistry from seven years of Parks and Recreation, and occasionally slip into the attitudes of their original NBC characters. Or at least the parts of themselves that were already like those characters.
Like Mel, Sue, Sandi and Noel from GBBO, they too use a lot of innuendo to provide lighthearted comedy. With the word “wood” being a regular source of chuckles — Particularly during a game of “smell my wood” in which Offerman was blindfolded and had to guess the type of wood he was holding via scent alone. Brilliant.
All of the contestants are either amateur or lower-level professionals in their specific craft area. These specialities include felt-work, woodwork, needlework and “hodgepodge”, among others. This means that not everyone can have a go at everything, as is the case with GBBO, so I’m already worried about the show’s ability to fairly judge the challenges.
For example, the challengers were asked to make a quilt, and so the woodworking guys made solid wooden quilts. You know, wood; That comfortable material which keeps you really cosy and warm on winter evenings? I suppose you could use the wooden quilts as firewood and they’d have a similar effect, but I doubt that after three hours of crafting they’d want to immediately burn their finished product.
Obviously a fabric quilt won the contest, and I’d hope that when they’re asked to make a a birdhouse, the woodworking guys will win and not the felt crafter. Unless they also make tiny felt birds, that would be great.
So while it’s refreshing to have an American competition reality show with very little actual competition, I almost think that they’ve gone too far the other way, and that the contests are near-meaningless. But then again, it’s fun to watch and almost everything in life is near-meaningless, so I think that on the whole — us viewers still win.
One of the contestants started to tell a sob-story and I thought that the show was going to fall victim to another one of my least favourite reality show tropes. At first I thought he was attempting to generate sympathy purely based on his openly gay lifestyle, which I think we’re a bit beyond as a society pushing for equality, but then he elaborated by saying that when he came out, his parents sent him a funeral bouquet with a note that said “To our dead son”. Damn.
You carry on crafting sir, that’s a unique sob story that’s infuriatingly upsetting. At least he can be proud of the fact that he’s on network television, showcasing his craft to the world, while his parents are probably sat at home resenting each other and waiting for the release of death, so they can escape their hateful hearts. If it were me then I would’ve pickled that bouquet and preserved it as motivation to be more alive than ever.
What’s that? You don’t pickle flowers? You iron them? Well that can’t be right…
Maybe I do need to watch this crafting show.
I also loved the way that Poehler and Offerman eased audiences into the idea of a reality show without drama, by cutting to them talking to the camera after someone broke the traditional format:
Amy: Judy just dropped her knife on her toe and she isn’t freaking out about it!? What is wrong with these people!?
Nick: Well Knope — I mean Amy — These are crafters, some of the best people this great nation has to offer.
Amy: But Bob just helped Judy with her project because he’d already finished his!? What is going on!? *hysterical faces*
Nick: A crafting project is like a fine oak sailing ship; You can’t man the the crows nest and steer the wheel at the same time. *sips whiskey*
I don’t know if it’ll have the same longevity as GBBO, which has found success stateside as the Great British Baking Show. I still have no idea why they changed the name. The beautiful thing about Bake-Off is that it really encourages you to have a go at home, and a culture of baking is formed across the nation for ten weeks every year.
Making-It might encourage some crafting, but the crafters in this show are using tools that must be worth thousands of dollars, as well as expensive materials for each individual project. So I doubt that the same homespun buzz will be generated.
Overall I’d recommend you watch the show if you enjoy GBBO, Poehler/Offerman, or reality shows in general. It’s an easy watch that’s overflowing with chemistry, and although the format can be a little abrasive at times, if they manage to sand down the edges going forward then it’ll be a huge success.
Today is Thursday, 2nd of August and my cat just came running in with a roll of toilet paper.