If you’re anything like me, you might have spent hours scrolling through Etsy and thinking to yourself, “How did someone make that?” Imagining how items on sale are constructed can be quite the conundrum. Well, the competitors on NBC’s new show “Making It” are here to show viewers how all that crafting is done.
“Making It” is produced and hosted by “Parks and Recreation” alumni Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and features eight crafters, each with different specialties. Each episode calls on the contestants to create a “faster craft,” a smaller project in a short amount of time, and a “master craft,” a larger and more complicated endeavor. The winner of each challenge is awarded a homemade embroidery patch and at the end of each episode one person is eliminated.
The first episode of “Making It” premiered on July 31 and set itself apart from other reality shows right off the bat. Poehler starts things off by explaining the idea behind the show: “Wouldn’t it be great to find a way to celebrate people who can make something original from scratch and share their talents with the world? ‘Cause life is stressful enough. Let’s make a show that makes you feel good.”
Having a competition show make people feel good is definitely a tall order. Reality show such as “The Bachelor” often end up making the contestants look bad to heighten the sense of drama; cooking competitions such as “Chopped” tend to trigger an “everyone for yourself” vibe with the prize money driving the contestants passed the point of civility; and, talent-based competitions such as “American Idol” or “So You Think You Can Dance” give viewers less of a chance to see the process behind the art or to connect with the contestants.
Within the pantheon of reality television, “Making It” is much more in line with the wholesome nature of “The Great British Baking Show” than with any of the programs mentioned above. The contestants truly seem to be happy just doing what they love and willingly offer support to each other throughout the process. Their passion for their work is infectious, and viewers cannot help but feel excited when the crafts are successfully completed.
Poehler and Offerman are a large part of what makes the show’s atmosphere so inviting. Fans of “Parks and Recreation” will be delighted to see the duo of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson share the screen once again — the fact that the two are friends in real life makes it that much more scrumptious. Their chemistry is so much fun to watch as they effortlessly bounce jokes off one another or exchange loving barbs.
A crafting show also turns out to be the perfect setting in which to watch Poehler and Offerman play. Fans of Offerman will know that he is the real-life Swanson and is an extremely skilled woodworker and he is therefore able to offer the perspective of a seasoned craftsman to the contestants. Poehler, on the other hand, has no clue what is going on and embraces it. For viewers new to the world of crafting, Poehler serves as a perfect surrogate, showcasing an eagerness to learn as she asks the contestants to explain materials and techniques to her.
Poehler and Offerman also help to keep things lighthearted. Despite the fact that contestants are eliminated at the end of each episode, the two hosts don’t take the competition aspect too seriously. They joke about how the title of “master crafter” will surely mean that the show’s winner gets hotel and restaurant discounts for the rest of their life. And, while there is a cash prize for the eventual winner, Poehler and Offerman emphasize the patches given out at the end of each challenge.
The winners of the first week’s “faster craft” and “master craft” both showed genuine joy upon receiving their patches and affixed them proudly to their aprons. Even the first eliminated crafter had nothing but kind words, saying that being able to bond with the other crafters and with the hosts was the best part of the experience.
After just one week, the contestants seem to have a natural bond formed by their mutual love of crafting. During the first “faster challenge,” which entailed having the crafters make an animal representation of themselves, two of the contestants ended up choosing the same animal, a bee. While Poehler joked that this fiasco was large enough to justify shutting down the challenge, the two crafters sportingly declared their support for each other’s “inner bees.”
In fact, the entire show is almost completely free of drama, allowing the craftsmanship of the contestants to shine through. The crafts being created on the show are truly impressive. Not only do the projects showcase a variety of techniques and interpretations, but they are reflections of who the contestants are as artists and people. Even when one of the crafts is less successful, it is impossible not to appreciate the amount of effort and creativity that went into making it.
Unfortunately, while the variety of crafts on display is pleasing to see, it is also the biggest weakness of “Making It” as a competition show. Some of the crafters specialize in woodworking, others in paper or fabric and others in a variety of different materials. The assortment of finished products makes it very difficult to judge against each other. A viewer may be able to tell that a wood product and a paper product were both executed very well, but it is much harder to say that one exhibited better craftsmanship than the other.
Despite the difficulty of judging a competition of this nature, the judges do a commendable job and — at least for the first episode — their choices seem very justified. Barney’s creative ambassador Simon Doonan and Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson take into consideration a variety of factors and give a great deal of constructive criticism, both during the making process and after the final products are presented. Their communication with the crafters helps to make the confusing judging process that follows somewhat clearer.
Regardless of some minor flaws, “Making It” is still a breath of fresh air for reality television. Poehler and Offerman are effortlessly charming and it is impossible not to smile as you watch the contestants pour their hearts into some truly beautiful projects. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the crafters will make for the rest of the season.