If you’re expecting “Making It” to be a guide to success in Pawnee, rethink your viewing plans.
The new crafting competition, from “Parks and Recreation” stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, is much like “Project: Runway” or several dozen of those cooking shows. Contestants vie for a $100,000 prize, bragging rights and the ability to ad lib with Poehler and Offerman.
(Amy Sedaris does crafting (that isn’t far off) on her spoof of a show and it’s much more entertaining. This is edutainment.)
In two segments, the eight competitors (with backgrounds in everything from woodworking to felt) make crafts that play off some randomly chosen theme.
In the first round – the “faster-craft” – they’ve got three hours to come up with something that wows judges Simon Doonan (a celebrated New York window dresser) and Dayna Isom Johnson (an online trendspotter). Offerman, a skilled woodworker, and Poehler, a natural improv artist, offer their two cents as the clock ticks down.
On the opening episode, the eight have to make a 3-D representation of themselves as animals. This gets the creative juices going and lets the audience know what their media happen to be.
Billy Kheel works in felt, Khiem Nguyen and Nicole Sweeney like wood, Jeffrey Rudell prefers paper; Joanna Gick, Amber Kemp-Gerstel, Robert Mahar and Jemma Olson run the gamut; they’re what are commonly known as “crafters.” While contestants range in age from 28 to 60, “Making It” is likely pitched at the stay-at-home mom who possesses a glue gun. There’s a gentle, low-fi quality to the show.
Even Poehler and Offerman don’t fire up the ad libs like they do on late-night television.
A bit (in which Offerman tries to identify wood by its smell) flops, but there’s a quick moment when Poehler tells him, “I macramed you. I can macra-break you.”
The clock, although a factor, doesn’t really keep the eight from realizing their concepts. Only one in the opening episode is unfinished and that’s due to an accident. Otherwise, the stuff looks the way they intend it to.
The animal competition (which, by the way, results in the winner get a Girl Scout-like patch) could be duplicated as a school craft project and work. Two choose the same “animal” (oh-oh, tension); another goes so far out of the box it has to win.
In the second competition, the “master craft” round, completion time is longer and the results are, supposedly, spectacular. Because the opener’s deals with “quilts,” it’s fairly locked in. But the work looks like it took some forever to complete.
In the process, one opens up with a story about his family that is heartbreaking. Poehler admits crafting is “a cheaper version of therapy.”
While Doonan and Johnson often talk above their audience, they do explain why they like what they do.
When they choose someone to go home, it’s pretty obvious and, as proof this isn’t all tears and tissue paper, Poehler and Offerman share a glass of wine with the ousted contestant.
“Making It” isn’t as heavy as you’d like but it does cut the clutter of talking heads and political spin. It’s very low-key. So low-key, in fact, you suspect someone will decide to use the felt to make the kind of puppets that populated “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Or a very special edition of “Ya Heard? With Perd!”
“Making It” airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday on NBC.