There’s an open secret on Nailed It!—the contestants are set up for failure.
The passionate but distinctly unpolished home bakers who gamely appear on Netflix’s competition show have no hopes of creating any of the multi-layered, fondant-covered creations they’re asked to replicate. And in this way, Nailed It! is a lot like the holidays themselves. Likewise, the show’s buoyant good cheer is a master class in dealing with the self-imposed stress of overloaded holiday expectations.
The new holiday-themed season of the show, which starts streaming Dec. 7, provides a perfect antidote to the perfectionism that sneaks in this time of year. A professional baker, tasked with producing a three-layer cake shaped like a ski hill in two hours—replete with fondant penguins and marshmallow snow drifts—would laugh and walk away. But a Nailed It! contestant dives in. It’s not just that these bakers are comically inept, it’s that they’ve been asked to do something objectively impossible.
One of the reasons the show works so well is that it finds a sort of comedic grace in failure. A common threads among contestants is that many of them are highly successful in life—college professors, small-business owners—but they just can’t seem to master baking, even though they love doing it. The Nailed It! narrative is not a classic success story. Contestants don’t magically become skilled frosting pipers and caramel wizards just through proximity to chocolatier and co-host Jacques Torres. But that’s okay—it’s not really a baking contest, it’s a competition to be a good sport
There are plenty of areas in life where we should resist mediocrity and work on being better. Unless you own a bakery though, frosting a cake is one place where it’s okay to celebrate exactly where you are. Much of the holiday season is like this. Buying perfect gifts, planning meals that incorporate the favorite foods of every family member, sending out handwritten notes to every acquaintance, and merrily decorating your home are all lovely ways to make December feel festive. The point though isn’t to win Christmas, or to make everything perfect. It’s to enjoy doing something you love.