Emmys: How 'Nailed It!' Broke Into the Crowded Reality Competition Category

Adam Rose/Netflix

Netflix's baking series enters the toughest race with not-so-tasty cakes and an odd-couple host pairing in Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres.

How do you break into a crowded Emmy category like reality competition in your third season? In the case of Netflix's Nailed It!, it's by creating a show that brings together subpar bakers who have no business being in a reality competition with an odd-couple pair of hosts who are willing to laugh at the disasters presented to them.

Nailed It!, which debuted in March 2018, took off on Netflix in part because it asked everyday bakers to re-create Instagram-worthy sugar creations. In each 30-minute episode, three people face off in two rounds of competition in which they might be asked to make Marvel-themed cupcakes or do Michelangelo's David in cake form. Because of the limited time they're given to work, it's rare for a creation to turn out as planned. "If you ever see us spitting something out, we actually spat it out," says host Nicole Byer, who before the show was best known for MTV comedy series Loosely Exactly Nicole.

Byer co-hosts with James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Jacques Torres. And while the show features a rotating cast of high-profile guest judges — French chef Hubert Keller and YouTube baker Rosanna Pansino appeared on season three — the most entertaining and surprising encounters are the ones between Byer and Torres. "We are the most unlikely people to work together because we are from totally different worlds," says Torres. "Nicole is very funny, how could you not love her?"

Another surprise for Byer is how much feedback she's gotten from kids about the show. "It's new for me because my comedy is not really for children," she says — adding with a laugh, "We shoot literally for 10 hours and the show is 30 minutes, so there are thousands of lost dick jokes."

Despite the fact that she's shot 26 episodes of the show, Byer insists that she's picked up little about how to bake, but when Torres quizzes her on terms — "Emulsion, Nicole!" — it turns out she does know a thing or two. "Emulsion is when you are getting some air into your frosting," she recites, then admits, "I made Jacques an ooey-gooey butter cake for his birthday. He is the only person I baked for this year."

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THE REALITY RETURNEES

Joining newbie Nailed It! in the competition series group are five familiar faces.

RuPaul's Drag Race (VH1)

In 2018, the series was the first to win the competition program and the host Emmy in the same year. The 11th season snatched 14 noms and included impersonations of Rachel Maddow and putting on a "Trump: The Rusical" challenge.

The Voice (NBC)

The singing competition has won the category three times (and has been nominated eight years in a row). Its other 2019 noms include casting, hairstyling and production design. The 16th season welcomed John Legend as a coach, replacing Jennifer Hudson.

American Ninja Warrior (NBC)

The obstacle-course show has been nominated every year since 2016 but has yet to win. The 10th season, which also earned a directing nom, lowered the minimum age requirement from 21 to 19 and included the introduction of an 18-foot "Mega Wall."

The Amazing Race (CBS)

The CBS program has won this category a record 10 times. Season 31 saw the series bring back past contestants from Big Brother, Survivor and The Amazing Race to compete for the $1 million prize. It also is nominated for editing and directing.

Top Chef (Bravo)

The cooking competition has been nominated for 13 consecutive years (it won in 2010). The 16th and most recent season, Top Chef: Kentucky, was missing longtime judge Gail Simmons (who was out on maternity leave) and had a splashy finale set in China's Macao.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.