Cooking shows and comedy stars: They’re a recipe as reliably delicious as your nanna’s pecan pie. Nailed It! on Netflix has the bubbly bawdiness of stand-up comic Nicole Byer. HBO Max newcomer The Big Brunch features the smirky smarts of Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy. Community’s Joel McHale pulls double duty as the host of both Fox’s Crime Scene Kitchen and E!’s Celebrity Beef. And, of course, The Great British Bake Off boasts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas as doofy foils to pastry pros Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
However, if The Great British Bake Off has taught us anything recently (other than that it should stay far, far away from Mexican cuisine), it’s that cooking competitions live and die by the likeability of their hosts and how effectively they embody the show’s spirit. So after three seasons of his cringe comedy butting awkwardly against Bake Off’s cozy ethos, it wasn’t a surprise when Lucas recently announced that he was “cheerfully passing the baguette on” to an as-yet-unannounced new co-host.
Thankfully for Peacock and its new season of Baking It—which launched this month and runs through January 9—there are no wrong-ingredient hosts to be found here. If anything, the additive of Amy Poehler—replacing season one co-host and fellow SNL alum Andy Samberg—alongside close friend and frequent collaborator Maya Rudolph (Wine Country, Sisters) simply sweetens the whole mix.
Poehler was already an executive producer on Baking It, the sugar-laden offshoot of the craft competition Making It that she hosted with Parks And Recreation costar Nick Offerman from 2018 to 2021. But now as a host, she’s stirred right into the action, and her decades-long chemistry with Rudolph is easily the most delicious part of the show. If you are one of those people who rejoice every time you see the former costars zanily banter together at an awards-show podium, Baking It is essentially an hour of that: silly voices and sweater vests, sweet absurdities and so, so many songs (a personal favorite: a hippie-folk ballad dedicated to “a lonely mint forgotten in the bottom of the bag,” complete with flower crowns and groovy sunglasses).
“I told Peacock if Maya and I host a competition show, it’s gotta be the biggest, the baddest, the most extreme show on streaming,” Amy jokingly announces in the second episode. “This season we’re Baking Bad—that means action, tattoos, gettin’ in your face, dinosaurs!” Maya riffs without missing a beat. “And how about explosions?” Amy yells before making a multi-tiered cake explode with the push of a button. “Eat that, network!” Maya roars. “What’s happening? What did we sign up for?” asks one very confused contestant. The Maya and Amy Variety Hour, clearly—with a side of cake.
Yes, at times, the titular activity on Baking It is overshadowed by the sheer joy of watching Rudolph wrench a shoulder-shaking, silent-wheezing laugh out of her good friend Poehler. And it’s not just the at-home viewers who are gleefully distracted by the dynamic duo. “I’m doing very good not to quote every movie and scene y’all have been in,” one extremely excited half of a mother-daughter team tells the hosts during a mid-bake check-in. (Another contestant’s thick New Yawk accent prompts an entire Bronx Beat “Sweater Weather” bit.)
But Baking It has a secret weapon—no, not the Implements of Destruction held in the Baking It Armory for cake-destroying purposes (“We’re two moms so we love smashing and blowing things up!”), but the Panel of Opinionated Grannies.
Yes, maximizing the show’s wholesome quota, the judges of this cooking competition are our very own cheesecake-loving golden girls, four real-life grandmothers (Nana Harriet, Grandma Anne, Gigi Sherri and Bubbe Norma, all returning from season one) who confidently know their doughs from their batters and judge the eight baking teams all the way to that $50,000 grand prize and the coveted “Best in Dough” title—when they’re not knocking back gin martinis and gossiping about you from underneath a crocheted lap blanket, of course.
If you’re looking for harsh culinary critiques, there are other series for that. Baking It is #PositiveVibes only. “We can see you had some construction problems, but that’s okay, because things happen like that,” Gigi Sherri gently tells a pair of married contestants about their Dominican tres leche cake. “You did miss some of the details but that’s understandable” is the closest the women come to a biting appraisal. (Gigi Sherri is Baking It’s answer to Paul Hollywood, from her silver-fox hairdo to her own signature set of kudos à la the “Hollywood Handshake,” a whooping “Gigi Diggity!” when she approves of a particular bake.)
Each week, winners of the “Big Ol’ Bake” challenge are awarded a jeweled brooch, fished out from inside one of the grannies’ large handbags, humorously hitting a requisite butterscotch candy or rogue set of false teeth along the way. But even the eliminations are imbued with feel-good fuzziness, with departing contestants getting enveloped in a big, loving hug from grandma before they’re sent home.
And the contestants are so good-natured that they’d likely smile through an expulsion even without the warmth of a maternal embrace. Unlike GBBO, which has transformed homegrown hobbyists into celebrities in their own right via cookbook deals and full-season pick-ups, the Baking It battlers—though as capable as they are relatable—don’t seem to harbor big professional baking ambitions beyond getting through the given episode challenge at hand, whether that’s crafting cakes based on their worst phobias or reinventing awful-sounding retro recipes like prawn-stuffed apples and banana-ham bakes. (“This feels like a Depression recipe, because I feel depressed right now,” Maya quips.)
They, like us, are simply happy to spend some time on a wackadoo little cooking show run by two lovable weirdos and a gaggle of grannies. What a treat, indeed.