It’s that time of year again when Thanksgiving is over, December has begun and streams of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” have started to rise. This can only mean one thing: The holidays are around the corner, and it’s once again time for seasonal specials.
This year, Peacock TV has introduced what may become another holiday classic: “Baking It,” a competitive holiday baking show where home bakers create delightful festive treats as they compete for the grand prize of $50,000. While it’s unclear exactly what the two hosts have to do with baking, Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”) and Andy Samberg (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) certainly do a great job at making the show a much more entertaining watch. “Baking It” also taps into the traditional warmth of many holiday shows by exploring the stories of individual contestants, making for a perfect combination of laughs and love expected of a show of its kind.
Unlike many other seasonal baking competitions, “Baking It” strays away from the traditional four two-person team format with new contestants every episode and adopts one more similar to shows like “The Great British Baking Show” and “Master Chef,” where a uniform cast is kept throughout the season, and one team is eliminated each episode. The cast consists of eight teams of two — from father-son pairs, siblings, best friends and married couples — some of whom are reuniting for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping a singular cast throughout the show’s eight-episode duration makes it feel much more cozy and familial.
Each episode consists of two challenges: “Short and Sweet” and “Pie in the Sky.” For the “Short and Sweet” challenge, contestants are tasked with making a small holiday confection (think cookies, macarons and brownies), and in the “Pie in the Sky” challenge, contestants make a bigger, themed dream bake. At the end of each round, each member of the winning team is given a studded holiday broach for their aprons, and at the end of each episode, one team is eliminated.
“Baking It” also diverges slightly from other similar shows by placing more of an emphasis on the contestants themselves and the relationships within each pair, rather than on the actual baking and other minor drama that most other shows capitalize on, making it that much more wholesome. Maybe in future episodes, there will be more drama to focus on or more attention paid to the baking process, but based on the pilot, it seems the show may stick with spotlighting the bakers themselves.
However, the real stars of the show that set “Baking It” apart are their panel of judges. Most shows star world-renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay in “Master Chef” or Candace Nelson in “Sugar Rush” on their team of judges, but “Baking It” features a cast of four opinionated Grannies: Nana Harriet, Grandma Anne, Gigi Sherri and Bubbe Norma. While they may not have the same level of prestige as some other judges, the four perfectly encapsulate the lovingly critical (but mostly loving) tone we come to expect from our own grandparents, making the show even more relatable and comforting. The dynamic between this panel of judges and contestants is very sweet and the banter between real-life best friends Nana Harriet and Grandma Anne adds another level of hominess.
Overall, “Baking It” succeeds in exactly what it strives to be as a holiday baking show. It is precisely what you would put on the TV over winter break as you curl up under a blanket, hot chocolate in hand, in front of a warm fireplace with snow falling outside your window. “Baking It” truly is the perfect binge to put anyone into the holiday spirit.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.