Happy 2019!! We are stepping back from our usual game content, so that I can write about my newest obsession. A couple of weeks ago, Red Menace wrote about her hopes for the year. One of my hopes this year is that I want to find more positive things in the world, which is really hard these days. Believe it or not, I have found positive things in the most unusual place – reality competition shows. I will begin this by saying that I am actually not a fan of reality television in general, as most of it is too drama filled for me. There are three shows in particular, The Great British Bake Off, Nailed It and Making It, that I believe are the three best examples of this type of program.
The Great British Bake Off is a show that airs in the US on PBS and the latest season is available on their website. Prior seasons can be found on Netflix, with a special holiday season just released last month. On this show, master bakers compete in a giant tent to see who the best amateur baker is. On the face of it, it appears to be just another baking competition, but I promise you that it is more than that.
The hosts for seasons 1 through 7 were Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. The judges for these seasons were Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. The current hosts are Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig and the judges are Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. Each week is a different themed baked good with three different challenges. The first challenge is Signature Challenge. This is when the bakers show off their talents with the week’s themed baked good. The second challenge is the Technical Challenge. The bakers are given ingredients and a very bare bones recipe that is often missing things. The judges actually don’t know who made what when they taste it. The final challenge is the Showstopper Challenge and that is when the bakers have to show off their skills and bake and assemble a showpiece to wow the judges.
This show got me through a lot of packing the old apartment and will continue to be entertainment as we continue to work on getting the new house fully unpacked. Why do I love it so? The drama is so low in this show. In fact, in order to prevent the camera men from filming people melting down, the hosts would stand next to the baker and yell profanity and brand names so loud the footage could not be shown. I love that. Especially when so much reality television thrives on drama. There is not one baker I wouldn’t root for. Also, the diversity of the bakers makes me happy. When the judges are judging they do not say anything negative that is not stated in an educational manner. There was one challenge with eclairs that we watched and Paul told the baker that they were under cooked and then told them how to fix it the next time. They took the negative and turned it into a positive learning experience.
The thing I love most of all – and I will probably mention this several times in this article – is how refreshing it is to watch people who are competing for a cash prize showing good sportsmanship. Contestants share what they have and often their freezers. It is so refreshing and makes my heart happy.
Nailed It is a show where, in every episode, three amateur bakers try to recreate Pinterest baked goods and it goes as well as you can imagine. Comedian Nicole Byers hosts this program and is one of the judges along with Chef Jacques Torres and a guest judge. It has already had two full seasons, a special holiday season and is approved for a season 3. It appeared on my Netflix feed as something new and I watched the first episode and then immediately shared it with my 7 year old. I knew he would love it because we love watching baking shows together.
The added benefit was how positive the judges were. They would talk about the issues and how to fix them, but they would always end on a list of positives and tell the contestant that they did a good job trying. I believe that sort of positivity among adults is something that children need to see. By the end of the first season, we were clapping and telling the contestants “good try”. The contestants all root for each other. I loved that at the end of the episode all the contestants embrace the winner and not in the “second place in a beauty pageant” type of hug. The judges join in the celebration, the feeling is genuine, and they all pose for a picture as the end of the credits play.
In the episode I re-watched to prepare for this post, one contestant was a woman who suffered a brain injury and didn’t think she could ever cook again. When she told her story, she ended with how she just wanted to compete to show her appreciation for getting through a time when she was having trouble and to have fun. She didn’t win, but as she said, “I didn’t come here to win. I came to have fun, and I did that.” The winner then talked about how wonderful the other two people were and how happy she was to get to know them. It was refreshing.
The other thing Nailed It discusses is the importance of following directions. A lot of contestants have trouble because they stray from the directions, often thinking that they know better. The judges will try and mention at a very high volume that there is going to be a problem because a direction is missed. It is something that we talk about watching the episode and emphasizing the need to follow directions.
My son often tells me that this show a good example of a “bubble gum brain”. That is a term his fantastic teacher (Hi Mrs. C!) taught him at school. It is a person who stretches their brains to try something new and keep at it, even if it doesn’t look like it is going to work. There is not one “brick brain” (someone who is negative and tries to quit) among the contestants.
Making It is a craft competition that aired this summer on NBC. Its latest season is on Hulu and it has been renewed for a season two. It is hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and the judges are Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan. The makers, who are all skilled in a different type of crafting, compete in two challenges an episode. The first challenge, the Faster Craft, is a “quick” three hour project that is based around the theme of the episode. The opening episode was a “tell us about you” craft where makers had to create an animal that represented them out of the materials of their choice. The second project, the Master Craft Challenge, is a much longer build and consists of multiple pieces. In my favorite episode, the makers had to create a play tent and a corresponding toy. At the end of each of these challenges, a maker is selected as the winner of the challenge and receives a patch. Then someone is selected to be sent home. This show is great. It makes me want to get crafting with every episode. But that is not the only reason why it is great.
Again, despite being in competition for thousands of dollars, these makers help each other. If someone notices another person struggling, they will offer to help. Sometimes that means leaving their project for a little bit. They share their tools and space. They shout encouragement to each other and complement their work. It pretty much is a drama free zone. The hosts even go and try to help lighten the situation. (The craft pun competition bumpers before and after commercials are worth the watch too.)
They also show people going out of their comfort zone. They show someone who specializes in woodwork attempting to build a terrarium. Someone who is a master at felt attempting to work with something new and not succeeding, but being proud of what they did. It was inspiring, not only as a crafter but also as a person, to watch them attempting something new. The hosts and judges visit each maker and help them bounce ideas around. They talk about techniques and processes together. It seems like more of a community than the average television show. At the end of the episode, when someone is chosen to go home, you can see how genuinely sad that everyone (even the judges) is.
(If you watch it and feel inspired, the Ladies are hosting their Collage Card craft night on Saturday, January 12. I know I am excited for it. The cost is $15.00. This is a great way to support LadiesCon.)
Each of these shows are not only genuinely fun to watch, but also family friendly. On a day when the world seems excessively negative, these shows remind us there are kindness and positivity in the world and encourage you to spread the kindness around.
We have not figured out our featured game for February, because we are still waiting to confirm our dates for the year. As soon as we have them, we will announce them in our Facebook group, our Instagram and our Twitter. Follow us to get the information first!
Until next time, may all your hits be crits!