Failed Cakes and Abundant Grace on Netflix’s Nailed It!

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

I love scrolling through beautiful crafts, DIYs, and food photos on Instagram and Pinterest. I love The Great British Baking Show. I like watching people do something amazing with expert skill and creativity. But I’ll be honest, on the rare occasion I take on a project myself, the goals are more modest and there’s a … range in quality and appearance. It’s hard to predict when I’m going to feel that swelling sense of accomplishment and when I’m going to have a nice chuckle at my own expense. That’s why I appreciate the Netflix baking show Nailed It!.

Unlike most cooking shows, everyone goes into Nailed It! anticipating disaster. The challenges are fantastically, hilariously difficult and the contestants are hapless amateurs. This creates opportunity for two equally delightful outcomes. Contestants either spectacularly miss the mark (with good humor along the way) or surprise everyone (including themselves) with something closer than expected to the model they were trying to recreate.

I like how sincerely and earnestly the contestants on Nailed It! try to do their best. Sometimes they come up with last-minute improvisations that don’t recreate the model exactly, but get close to the idea behind it with the time and equipment they had left.

Host Nicole Byer, pastry expert Jacque Torres, and a guest expert look on as all this takes place, alternately amused and horrified and occasionally stepping in to help. The judge’s foibles appear in the final cut as well. One leaves to pick up his kids midway through the taping (he comes back in time for the final judgment), while another absconds with a part of the set. The whole show seems carefully assembled to give an impression of a bunch of people biting off more than they can chew and approaching the whole situation with glee and a shrug. It’s as if they left in the stuff that’s usually edited out or saved for the blooper reels.

After the first round, the least-worst baker is awarded a golden baker’s cap. After the second, one contestant is given a trophy and $10,000, and showered with accolades and fake dollar bills that are shot out of a machine. Amidst all this silliness, what keeps me coming back for more is the way the show still manages to celebrate people making a sincere attempt. Everyone is in on the joke and everyone is trying, and that’s part of the joy.

The way that Nailed It! celebrates humanity in all our humanness makes me wonder: might the show reflect how God sometimes sees us? In Genesis, God brings Adam animals to see what he will name them. In Zephaniah, God rejoices over us with singing. We were made to be creative beings, and when we fulfill that purposes it is delightful to behold. When I watch Nailed It!, I’m reminded that God’s delight in human creativity is bigger and more complicated than what we actually produce.

The show also reflects how much God loves us when we are less than perfect. Nailed It! reminds me that God’s love for us (and joy in us) isn’t predicated on perfect performance. While certainly God wants us to offer up our best, he also loved us “while we were still sinners.” It’s a joy to watch and relate to these contestants, who mess up repeatedly but are still treated as worthy and delightful—indeed, as valuable children of God.

God doesn’t ignore our mistakes and our foibles, of course, but he loves us nonetheless, to the point of sending his son to die for us. I’m grateful for grace that covers both my small mistakes and the big ways I’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Topics: TV