Let’s all get baked
On top of all the death and poverty, we now live in a time where you can’t find eggs and flour at the store because everyone is baking. So there’s no show better suited to our nightmare moment than Nailed It!, which mercifully debuted its fourth season on Netflix yesterday. If you want a mindlessly hilarious distraction from the hellscape unfolding around the world, look no further.
If you’ve all missed riding the Nailed It! express so far, this is a glorious moment to begin. A celebration of incompetent home bakers everywhere, Nailed It! puts rank amateurs through two ridiculously difficult baking challenges. The first is usually some sort of cookie or other minor concoction. The second is a ludicrous cake featuring fondant-wrapped decorations and a variety of elaborate modeling chocolate side pieces. This isn’t The Great British Baking Show, where the contestants are actually good. Occasionally someone competent will appear on Nailed It!, but most of the contestants are morons. The whole point is that we howl along at home with their baking fails, which resemble our baking fails.
That’s why, unless you have a heart of rock, you have to love Nailed It! This isn’t a show that makes you feel inadequate, unless you have really low self-esteem. And it takes itself extremely unseriously. Anyone who watches cooking competitions knows that they’re besotted with themselves. On Master Chef, Gordon Ramsay says shit like, “This is the most important challenge in the history of the world’s greatest cooking competition.” Top Chef is full of homilies about “cooking from your heart.” Whereas on episode one of the fourth season of Nailed It!, endlessly hilarious host Nicole Byer says to a contestant, “Fish, your royal icing was so sweet, I nearly passed away.” I had to pause the show for two minutes, I was laughing so hard.
I’m parsing Season 4 slowly, like the batch of gluten-free brownies that I’ve strongly encouraged my wife to make this week. The first episode, though, was probably my favorite of the entire show, and I’ve seen them all. Maybe it’s because I just desperately needed a #cakefail, but it also just seemed tailored to my specific interests. Matt Walsh of Veep and the Upright Citizens Brigade joins Byer and her co-host, master chocolatier Jacques Torres. Three typically dopey contestants appear to do literary-themed baking challenges.
In the first one, they have to make cookies in the shape of either William Shakespeare, Romeo, or Juliet, accompanied by stained-glass windows. For the second round, they have to make a cake in the shape of a book, with a diorama on top featuring a modeling-chocolate Captain Ahab fighting off a Moby Dick made out of molded Rice Krispies. Walsh makes wry comments but mostly laughs his ass off. At one point, the action stops for two of the contestants as they have to listen to Byer read them a passage from Moby Dick for three minutes. Meanwhile, a schoolteacher from Casa Grande, Arizona, desperately wrestles with her candied Moby Dick figure. It’s the greatest literary farce since the last Jonathan Franzen essay in The New Yorker.
We’re in the middle of a global plague that’s quickly turning into a global depression. Everyone is losing their jobs, some people are losing their lives, and no one can leave the house. The 1930s distracted people with Busby Berkeley musicals and slapstick comedy, but every era must create its own good feelings. Sure, we can gape at the antics of the Tiger King. However, nothing lifts the spirits more than a good old-fashioned cake fail, presided over by a hilarious sassy host who occasionally wears a tiara. I’m just hoping they let us all out of quarantine soon so Nailed It! can make a Season 5. We’re gonna need the laughs.