I Was Wrong About Netflix’s Most Popular Show – And I Really Love It

I learned my lesson on Netflix, as America (again) spoke and reminded us that stupid sells – and stupid is (sometimes) really fun. So how much we wish Netflix spent the money and time on additional seasons of our beloved originals? Sometimes weird and wacky new ideas are still great.

Turns out Netflix’s reams of data on our behavior knows it can hit the mark – even when that target is on a briefcase-shaped cake. Right now Netflix’s #1 show or movie in the US is the proudly dumb Is It Cake?, A Cake Shop Where Cakes Don’t Look Like Cakes.

Is it cake?  ranks first on Netflix ahead of The Adam Project and Bad Vegan

(Image credit: Netflix)

For those unfamiliar with the meme that spawned the series, there’s a trend of cakes looking like other objects. Throughout a series of videos posted on social media, the bakers demonstrated how things that didn’t look like cakes could be easily cut into delicious pieces.

Is it cake? win with the right kind of stupidity

So, yeah, I know when to admit I was wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have judged Is It Cake? by its trailer, but I knew Netflix hit the right note less than 2 minutes into the first episode. When (SNL) host Mikey Day said, in a scene you don’t get until the finale, “yeah, they gave some idiot a machete!” I smiled and said “Oh, they know exactly what it is.”

So after Day opened the episode up yelling “is that caaaaake!?” in a wry, melodramatic way that could have been found on Iron Chef, I got attached for the goofy shenanigans. And I laughed at the presumption that I had been.

Mikey Day cuts a cake in the shape of a purse in Is It Cake?

(Image credit: Netflix)

I despised Is It Cake? because I approached the series from the angle of prestige dramas and critically acclaimed sitcoms. I absolutely loved my marathon sessions of Better Call Saul and Halt and Catch Fire. I’m also still bitter that Glow will be canceled before Season 4.

So when I watched Is It Cake? and asked “who cares?” I was asking the wrong question. A few fake cakes and many real cakes later, I’m here to say I had no idea how fun this game could be. My big eureka moment came early, as contestants tried to guess which fast food dishes were actually cakes.

Not only was the show shamelessly low, but the trial-and-error testing — which saw Day hack a taco meal with a giant sword — made me laugh. Is it cake? was smart enough to dramatically light up delicious fast food, but he was also smart enough to know that tearing down food with a blade that looks like Kill Bill’s is hilarious.

Is it cake? reminded me of something about myself

And that’s where I learned more about myself, in that I really like silly stuff. I should have known, of course, because I spend so much time reveling in the world’s latest popular performance art form: professional wrestling. But reality TV has never been my cup of tea, nor my cupcake.

But the more prestige TV I watch, I realize, the more breaks I need with something a little less exhilarating. Where is the cake ? join the game.

Andrew Fuller (L) cuts a cake into red Solo cups as host Mikey Day watches on Is It Cake?

(Image credit: Netflix)

The real thing about Is It Cake? – at least for me – is not about the art of baking a cake that looks remarkably like something else. It’s the hilarity and tension in how this is uncovered. When a contestant explains their choice by saying that a croissant doesn’t look flaky enough, I found myself nodding.

The humorous environment of Is It Cake?, where the entire cast laughs as one makes a choice, and the host questions their choice of words, is a perfect relaxing situation. The whole art of guessing can often be a matter of instinct and guesswork, and so the question of how “cakey” a fake looks might prove interesting.

Is it cake? it’s good, but it could be better

A knife slices a cake designed to look like a clean burger in half on the show Is it Cake?

(Image credit: Netflix)

The format of Is It Cake?, however, leaves room for improvement. Personally, I don’t find the middle of the episodes – the actual cooking part – all that compelling.

I didn’t see this next issue in advance, but that’s because I’m not as obsessed with the competition format of reality TV. As my colleague Tom Pritchard pointed out to me, “Most competitors had a chance, while Andrew Fuller won at least four times.”

If the show had a more equal playing field, where everyone cooked (please set it to REM’s “Everybody Hurts”) and eliminations were done in a different way, the show could have give everyone a more equal slice of the pie, as it was.

Javier E. Swan