‘Nailed It: Double Trouble!’ does, in fact, nail it

Illustration of a messy countertop covered with cupcake trays, mixing bowls, and half-decorated cake
Aarthi Muthukumar/Staff

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Grade: 5.0/5.0

“Nailed It: Double Trouble!” does not lie. The chaos dial pushes past 11 and breaks clean off. There is no stopping. There is no relief. This world was created for destruction and will be destroyed and rebuilt weekly according to the continuously shredding scriptures of baking. Let them eat cake.

Each episode of “Nailed It!” follows a rigid but winning formula. Three pairs of less than amateur bakers compete to win $10,000 in two rounds. The first round, dubbed “Baker’s Choice” sees each team choose from three cakes to replicate in 45 minutes. The winners of the first round receive a stand mixer and bedazzled toques to wear for the second round: “Nail it or Fail it.” All teams head into the second round with equal standing as they attempt to recreate the same extravagant cake for the cash prize –– although no team ever “nails” it.

The titular twist this season –– having three teams of two rather than three individual bakers competing –– feels like the way “Nailed It!” should always have been. The savvy casting team has taken full advantage of this change, pairing up glamorous drag queens, dad best friends, old college pals, raucous twins and even Hollywood-actor siblings. The “genre” of pair even changes by episode theme –– travelling pals, besties, family –– another ingredient increasing the depth of flavor across the season. The confessional segments knead each team’s dynamic to rise and form a mega-comedy when the cake hits the fan. With teams, the show makes room for foils and shared history while closing the door on disingenuity.

In fact, all the contestants genuinely feel like they’re in the presence of someone who brings out the best in them. It’s one thing to watch “Hell’s Kitchen” and see chefs a knife’s throw away from ending each other while Gordon Ramsey salivates over his next “donkey!” — which is still a vibe sometimes — but watching these people?

Listening closely to “Nailed It!,” one might catch the off-screen laughter of the other contestants, the hosts, the guest stars, heck, maybe even crew members. Since they’re not on camera, it’s a jolly mystery  — they’re on this set shooting for over ten straight hours. Yet cackles ring around the room throughout. These contestants applied for a baking show predicated on their sure and public failure. And they did it as friends. Because it’s fun. Because why not? “Nailed It!” stokes the underrated capacity of people to revel in absurd pursuits for the sake of absurdity alone.

But the hosts carry credit for this environment too. Nicole Byer? An icon, nay, the sovereign of this cooked universe. As main host, Byer oozes charisma like the cake queen she knows audiences need right now. She takes the uppity energy of traditional reality television hosts and leaks a dash of the “end-my-suffering” pain out from behind that familiar facade. Everything she says has an air of self-awareness for the silliness on screen –– and sometimes that means yelping in front of a green screen for three whole minutes pretending to be on a rollercoaster.

Jacques Torres? Not only an actually renowned pastry chef with basic tips for the rest of the awful bakers among the audience, but also a standalone personality heightening the zaniness of the production. Torres is the backboard for Byer’s antics, all the while dripping in woke French grandpa vibes. Above all, he is all in: when A$AP Ferg says you freestyle about baking cakes, Torres knows you freestyle about baking cakes –– and he knows it doesn’t have to rhyme. He’s the arbiter of taste at the gates of cake-hell, and he knows what this position requires of him.

Even the worst-sounding element, the guest judge rotation, is good. Any footage of any person stepping into this realm is good. A$AP Ferg looks like he’s stumbled onto “The Eric Andre Show” when his episode starts, but by the end, he wants to paint Torres’ hair. Pure content.

“Nailed It: Double Trouble!” is television baked by a nuclear reaction. It’s destructively delicious, and never leaving the body of the consumer.

Contact Lachie Wappet at [email protected].