The 1 Thing That Sets ‘Making It’ Apart From Other Competition Shows

No one could credibly accuse most reality shows of being “real.” Most people who have been involved in one will tell you that they can be just as manufactured as any scripted show. However, it may be worth those shows’ while to be more pleasant and get away from the trope of the “nasty” characters like Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay.

What sets Making It apart from other shows of its ilk is that it focuses more on good humor, rather than on trying to cut the contestants down. It helps when you have Joy herself (Amy Poehler of Inside Out) as one of your hosts. 

Reality shows rely on ‘meanness’ too much

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman on Making It
Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler| Evans Vestal Ward/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

American Idol was hardly the first reality TV show, but it was arguably the one that set the template for the “mean” qualities. Fans by now well know the story of how  Pop Idol, the UK forerunner of American Idol featured Cowell, and he couldn’t stand cheering on contestants who simply didn’t deserve it.

So he created a “character” of sorts as the brutally honest one. A takedown from Cowell could be absolutely withering, but a compliment could make a contestant’s day. 

And Cowell wasn’t the only “mean” element in American Idol. The audition shows often emphasized the weak singers so that Idol could get mileage out of Cowell giving them what for, but for some viewers, a little of that went a long way. After a while, it became an uncomfortable session in pointing and laughing at the hapless contestants, and most of them couldn’t capitalize on it like the legendarily awful William Hung.

Karaoke hosts at bars have been known to complain that their events became less fun because people wanted everyone to sound like Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson. 

It didn’t take long for other shows to copy Idol with a “mean” judge somewhere on the panel, whether it was Piers Morgan on America’s Got Talent of Gordon Ramsay on any one of his cooking shows. The  excess of abrasiveness meant a course correction was in order, and The Great British Baking Show and Making It provide that. 

What’s the gist of ‘Making It?’ 

Making It is a crafting competition that gives its contestants challenges to create unique art, like creating a unique design for a wall. Poehler came out with the pun “Makers, you really nailed this challenge to the wall,” which immediately lightens the mood.

Since the contestants are each making something unique and aren’t trying to put their own spin on someone else’s work, Making It feels more loose and freewheeling. As Screen Rant points out, if there’s any criticism from the justice, it’s always meant constructively rather than destructively. Instead of indulging in the misfortune of others, Making It indulges in the fortunes of others. 

Eliminations are part and parcel of every reality contest, but Making It sets out to make even that as painless as possible. Instead of saying good riddance, Poehler in particular is genuinely saddened to see people go and she accentuates the positive of what they brought to the show.

Meanness may have its day of reckoning. 

When Cowell moved from Idol to America’s Got Talent, he seemed to lean less on his mean character. More recently, however, Cowell got in hot water when Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough left the judging panel after one season, with Union in particular claiming there was a “toxic culture” that had prompted her ouster. Union not only took Cowell to the task, but NBC as a whole.  

For example, according to Esquire, producers reportedly told Union to “pick an act America can get behind” rather than stumping for 10-year-old black rapper Dylan Gilmer. Union interpreted that as racist, and she was also upset by Cowell allegedly smoking because she’s allergic to cigarette smoke and because no one is supposed to smoke inside the building. Now the Screen Actors Guild is investigating the matter. 

Reality shows will never be genuinely real, and meanness will probably never totally fade from the scene, but people in the business are setting out to prove that there should be less of it, on TV and in the real world.