‘Baking It’ contestants Joelle and Jordan
Updated Nov. 30, 2021 5:39 pm ET
When “The French Chef” hit the airwaves in 1963,
could hardly have imagined that there would be as many cooking shows on TV as there are now. Or that so many would have so little to do with cooking.
Peacock’s “Baking It” is the latest entry into a genre in which physics (“Baking Impossible”), architecture (“Bake Squad”) and abject failure (“Nailed It!”) have been vying with the pure competition, gluttony and ill will that already dominate so many TV food shows. While there are several programs from which a fledgling cook or baker can actually learn something (“Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street” is a favorite, along with “Good Eats” and “America’s Test Kitchen”), “Baking It,” with its Barry Manilow-inspired theme song, has taken a good bit of inspiration from the beloved “Great British Baking Show,” tossing out the Bakewell tarts, Victoria sandwiches and hot-water-crust pastries in favor of an indigestible combination of heartwarming and snarky, as whipped up by hosts
Those comical presenters
were great on the original “GBBS,” but one didn’t tune in just to see them.
Besides, they were funny. Ms. Rudolph and Mr. Samberg, who admit that their close bond is rooted in “the one half of one season where we overlapped” on “Saturday Night Live,” have virtually no chemistry and no material. They also have a show with no focus. What they do have are a group of very likable contestants, in teams of two—a brother and sister, a father and son, a husband and wife, a husband and husband—who are set loose at their baking stations with the most unfocused of assignments. One involves making a three-tiered cake inspired by “A Christmas Carol”—more specifically, something that will represent the spirit of each contestant’s past, present and future. The entries are all over the place, but not nearly as much as in episode 1, in which shrimp-and-grits cream puffs compete with Mexican sopes, a noodle kugel and bourbon bacon pecan tassies. If they’d called the show “Bacon It” they might have been on to something.
Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg
What the show also has, and which may be its saving grace, is its “Panel of Opinionated Grannies” (Grandma Anne, Bubbe Norma, etc.) who knock back dirty martinis while waiting for the cooks to finish, and then render their judgments. They’re no pushovers. A seven-spice sponge? “I’m not crazy about a lot of the spices,” says Nana Harriet. The fact that the same layer cake has no icing between the layers is met with a virtual eye-roll. “I didn’t …….