The third season of Ozark dropped on Netflix last Friday, and boy oh boy is it good, and holy hell is this not the best moment to watch it.
While being stuck at home on Day #(insert upside-down smile emoji) of this quarantine may seem like the perfect time for a 10-hour binge of a beloved drama, there’s just something about watching morally gray people attempt to unscrew themselves out of an impossible situation before it compromises them to a permanent end that feels so wrong right now.
Luckily, less than a week after the return of Ozark comes its diametric opposite, the antidotal, utterly soothing fourth season of Netflix’s Nailed It.
For the uninitiated, Nailed It is also a show about people trying to unscrew themselves out of an impossible situation, but in this case the situation is competitive Instagram-viral cake-making, and the stakes are blissfully piddling.
The show is hosted by comedy queen Nicole Byer—whom you may know from podcasts, TV, and being a general delight—along with French superstar chocolatier Jacques Torres, ostensibly the straight man in the duo, though he’s long since bent toward Byer’s arc of wackiness. These two preside over three amateur bakers competing to make confections whose difficulty level is way above their pay grade, for a grand prize of $10,000. The results—shown in side-to-side contrast with a pristine example—always find new ways to be terrible, while the contestants remain ever vigilant, hoping that maybe they’ll be the ones who finally get it right.
Nailed It is a cozy balm for dark days, the ideal quarantine watch. It’s like The Great British Bake-Off in its utter lack of reality-show cutthroat tension, but with more jokes and a lot less baking prowess. There’s no continuity to keep up with, no heroes or villains, no red herrings or tesseracts. We meet some nice if eccentric contestants, root for them to only fail a little, and laugh at their troubles, guilt-free, because they are fully in on the joke.
The show’s family-friendliness makes it something all quar-partners can enjoy together.
Kids love Nicole Byer, mostly because they don’t know what her stand-up shows entail. Parents will see themselves in the contestants, while millennials are probably already fans of the guest judges, a mix of comedians, chefs, and YouTubers that includes for this season Adam Scott, Fortune Feimster, Valerie Gordon, and Gabby Douglas.
Anyone who’s already a Nailed It fan might be wondering whether the formula has gotten stagnant by now. Rejoice—it has not! The producers keep finding ways to keep things fresh, whether it’s having comedian Paul Scheer on as a contestant rather than a judge last winter, or this season’s episode pitting twins against each other. The flirty dynamic between Byer and stage manager “hWes” at some point evolved into a new form of subservience, where Byer encourages guests to make Wes bring them anything they want to eat. And the variety of themes for the cakes in each episode keeps bleeding over to the rest of the show in fun new ways, such as this season’s “The One With the ’90s Theme” episode, which starts with a pitch-perfect Clinton-era-sitcom opening credits parody.
But what really makes this show an ideal quarantine watch is that we are all obsessed with making food now. We’re stuck at home, stringing together all our meals each day, depending on them to give us some kind of joy that takes us out of thoughts about *gestures vaguely at everything* stuff. We also finally have the time to actually bake some challenging pastries. (Well, not all of us.) Now, there’s an interactive competitive element to the show. When you watch and think, “Oh damn, I can definitely do better than that guy”—now you actually might have the bandwidth to give it a go.
While attempting some of the more complicated cakes and cookies, your mind might wander to how the contestants and judges were all stuck on set for many hours whenever this was filmed and project onto them your own claustrophobic feelings. There is a weird comfort in imagining everyone on the Nailed It set locked down, baking impossible cakes to pass the time. Or that could just be my own personal quarantine brain talking.
Either way, what’s undeniable is that Nailed It is a show about regular people trying to do their best and mostly failing but often surprising you in little ways. In other words, it’s a comforting reminder of what ordinary life is all about and the parts that remain even during a crisis.