One of the only genres of reality TV that I can get behind is the creative competition show. You know… Project Runway, Forged in Fire, RuPaul’s Drag Race, etc. While I try to tune out any drama that may arise (it is reality TV, after all), I’m so in awe of watching talented individuals create something, anything, under time, budget, or competitive constraints. Heck, throw away all the constraints and I'd just watch creative process videos for days.
One of my favorite shows in this genre is The Great British Baking Show and a new (slightly different) season just dropped on Netflix. I also just finished checking out NBC’s new Making It, which feels like a distant, crafty relative of all the British bakers I love, so I thought I’d give a rundown of each show. Not that it’s a competition.
GBBS: This season, both Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who have hosted the series from the beginning, were replaced. Bummer. But not a total bummer because the new hosts are the wonderfully wacky Noel Fielding and the surprisingly emotional Sandi Toksvig. Their silliness is kept to a demure and distinctly British level and they really feel like a support system and friendly face for the contestants.
Making It: Aside from being crafty, the main reason I wanted to watch Making It was for the hosts. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman walk the contestants through each week’s challenges and it’s obvious the two are good friends in real life. In this situation, Nick is the arts & crafts aficionado and Amy is the not-creatively-inclined-but-arts-appreciative sidekick. I was a little off-put by how over-the-top the side segments were, though. There was no subtlety to their gags and puns and it felt like it was taking time away from the main focus of the show.
GBBS: The newest season of The Great British Baking Show sees Paul Hollywood back, but not veteran Mary Berry. I was a bit worried about the new hosting dynamics, but I actually really enjoyed Berry's colorful replacement, Prue Leith. Both Hollywood and Leith gave honest and humble praise when earned and constructive and helpful criticism when necessary. With the exception of the technical challenges, the judges roam the room, observe the contestants, and ask insightful questions to make the most informed decisions in the final judging. And more than any other season, I believe, contestants emotionally accept the coveted Paul Hollywood Handshake.
aking It: The judges for Making It are Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan. Both have legitimate crafting cred: Johnson is Etsy’s Trend Expert and Doonan is a Barneys NY Creative Ambassador. Unlike GBBS, the judges for Making It appear only after the first challenge and then interact with the contestants for the second challenge before revealing the winner for the week. Like GBBS, they offered thoughtful criticisms and praise, but the interactions felt a bit bland. I didn’t ever really feel like they were totally wowed, except maybe on the last episode.
GBBS: All the baking goes down in a tent on the grounds of an English estate. While picturesque, the outside weather often affects the outcomes of the bakes: chocolate melts, custard oozes, and bakers drip.
Making It: Contestants craft in a chic, modern barn in the woods. While most stayed inside to complete their challenges, a few contestants popped outside to work in a bigger space or make use of the power tools.
GBBS: The Great British Baking Show consists of three challenges: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. Contestants are able to plan and practice for the signature bakes and show-stoppers, but the technical challenge is like a pop quiz on a subject of which you have no knowledge. It’s intense.
Making It: Making It features two challenges: a faster craft and a master craft. The faster craft is done in just a few short hours and the master craft in, what seems like, a day. While GBBS contestants must rely solely on their own knowledge and skills, there are assistants helping the makers construct and assemble their master craft projects.
GBBS: Each episode, a Star Baker is chosen and, in the end, the winner is given a crystal cake stand trophy. And maybe some flowers.
Making It: Each of the two challenges per episode has a winner, who receives a patch. In the end, $100,000 is awarded to the winning Master Crafter, though the hosts are quick to emphasize that it’s not about the money… it’s about a job done well.
They’re pretty similar, right? In structure, anyway. Amy even references the GBBS at one point in Making It. I had high hopes for Making It as a craft enthusiast myself, but, if it wasn’t obvious, my love runs deep for the British. To me, the camaraderie and relationships among the bakers is, no pun intended, more sweet than that of the makers. The series also really showcases the nuances of baking and it bothered me how little Making It actually showed of, well, making stuff. It felt very rushed and like so much more was being crafted behind-the-scenes. I was very pleased with the winner of Making It this season and would watch again if they come back with more, but I’d probably tune in after my GBBS fix.