Welcome back to Friday afternoon, the perfect time to plan elaborate holiday baking challenges, or figure out what food you’re going to order for delivery this weekend. If you’re planning to spend some time parked in front of the TV, like all the cool kids, here are notes on what to watch, including two cooking shows and a delightful animation collection.
Nailed It! stumbles into the holiday season
Nailed It! must be one of the most popular new Netflix food shows of 2018 because the entertainment giant has already released 18 episodes across three seasons since last March. The latest batch is a holiday-themed collection of baking challenges starring Eater Award-winning TV duo Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres, as well as a slew of amateur bakers and six special judges.The formula remains the same as always: The bakers try to recreate over-the-top pastries during two timed rounds where things usually go spectacularly wrong. Where this season sets itself apart from the previous two collections, though, are all the holiday flourishes.
Two of the three episodes that I screened this week were chock full of giddy fun, while the last one made me question the very nature of holiday-themed TV episodes in general.
Those delightful first two slices of Nailed It! feature hapless bakers attempting to make nativity scene animal cake pops, Santa Claus rice crispy cakes, arctic critter doughnuts, and penguin-topped fondant mountains. One of the players wins a chance to hit the “jangle tangle” button during the competition, which forces the other bakers to stop whatever they’re doing and untangle a ball of knotted-up Christmas lights — a very entertaining addition to the gameplay. In these episodes, I also enjoyed the bonus jokes from guest judge Lauren Lapkus (of Orange is the New Black fame), and the card tricks from Magic for Humans star Justin Willman.
But it’s the third episode, a Hanukkah-themed production featuring NYC cake legend Sylvia Weinstock as the guest judge, that felt tonally off to me. The episode starts with Byer and Torres — two non-Jewish TV personalities — tossing around Yiddish phrases and making Old Testament jokes on a stage strewn with Star of David banners. The second challenge — recreating a Weinstock cake adorned with a menorah — involves a “bubbie gift button” where one player freezes the other two, and forces them to open gifts from a fictional grandma. And one of the games has the bakers royally screwing up dreidel pops adorned with hebrew characters, as klezmer music blares in the background.
Of course, I would love to see Hanukkah get more representation on TV alongside all the baby Jesus stuff around this time of the year, but the cartoon-ish use of Jewish iconography in this episode feels reductive to me. I’ll be curious to hear what other viewers, particularly those who grew up celebrating Hanukkah, think about this episode.
The rest of the season contains a Thanksgiving turkey-cake challenge, and a New Year’s Eve-themed round hosted by the always hilarious Jason Mantzoukas, which both sound like a blast. All six episodes of Nailed It! Holiday! are now streaming on Netflix.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 3
Stream it on: YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play
The gist: Domee Shi’s wordless short film Bao, about an empty nesting mom who accidentally makes a dumpling baby, is worth the price of admission ($15) alone. Like all top-shelf Pixar movies, this seven-minute film will make you smile, laugh, and perhaps even tear up a bit. The rest of the collection is kind of a mixed bag, but do seek out the gorgeous bird tale Piper and visually dazzling religious/superhero story Sanjay’s Super Team. You can skip Lava, about a sad sack volcano dude who years for a pretty volcano girlfriend, and Party Central, wherein the Monsters University gang attends a frat rager.
Guy’s Ranch Kitchen, “Christmas at the Ranch”
Stream it on: YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play
The gist: What better way to celebrate The 12 Days of Guy Fieri than by watching the Platinum Prince’s brand new holiday special? Fieri hosts an extremely Northern Californian holiday soiree, where everyone is wearing short sleeves while cooking in a sprawling indoor/outdoor kitchen adjacent to his swimming pool. Jonathan Waxman steams a goose, Damaris Phillips bakes a buttery bundt cake, Marc Murphy fires up a paella pan full of lobster l’Américaine, and Carlos Ruiz makes the best dish of the afternoon, a hearty Cuban fufu. Guy himself doesn’t do too much cooking, but he does sample everyone else’s dishes at every step of the way, while also passing out drinks to his chef pals. Life in FlavorTown looks pretty nice this time of year.
In other entertainment news…
- 2018 was the year when Antoni Porowski took your avocado jokes and turned it into sweet, sweet food #brand guacamole.
- Here’s a guide to all the new faces on Top Chef.
- Lindsay Lohan’s clubstaurant reality show will probably be terrible, but people seem pretty excited about it.
- The night before the Rock has to be a big action hero, his trainer instructs him to crush an entire Hawaiian pizza all by himself.
- A Carnegie Deli pop-up in Manhattan sponsored by Amazon and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel team had a waiting list 6,000 people long.
- And finally, roughly half the cast of the American version of The Office got together for brunch last weekend, further sparking rumors of a possible reunion.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something hearty to make for yourself, consider checking out Elisabeth Prueitt’s ricotta dumplings.