The Parks and Rec co-stars on their new reality-competition series, Making It, which takes a Great British Baking Show–inspired approach to crafting.
When Amy Poehler—self-described DIY know-nothing and admirer-of-all-things handmade—set out to create a crafting-competition show, her goal was an uplifting contest: “We wanted each maker to feel encouraged to take risks and also allowed to do what they do best,” she said in an e-mail.
Finding a simpatico co-host as her company developed the contest was a no-brainer—which is why she set her sights on Nick Offerman, her old Parks and Recreationco-star, and a woodworking whiz in his own right. “I knew Nick loves and works in that world, and so he completely understood the tone of what we were going for,” she said. “Plus, we didn’t have to memorize any lines and we could both wear various forms of relaxed denim, which is always a plus.”
Offerman needed no convincing, and also signed on as a producer. “They wanted to pair her with somebody who knew their way around a glue gun,” said the actor, known offscreen for his passion for furniture-making—which is superseded only by his love for his wife, actress Megan Mullally.
Offerman and Poehler’s handiwork is all over Making It, a tenderhearted competition in which the pair cheerlead as eight contestants—specializing in everything from paper to fabric to wood—have their hand-making skills tested in timed and themed “faster-craft” and “master craft” challenges inspired by trends in crafting and DIY.
The charming contest is part of a larger trend toward kinder, gentler unscripted fare, a breather from plotting Survivors and petulant Housewives. Genre progenitors like The Great British Baking Show—which helped inspire Making It, according to Poehler—have begat other nice reality series, including Queer Eye, Nailed It, Undercover Boss, Face Off, Terrace House—Japan’s sweeter version of The Real World—and the U.K.’s The Big Family Cooking Showdown.
Filmed near Malibu on a grassy hillside, the show’s setting is meant to give off an arts-and-crafts vibe. Wardrobe designer Kirston Mann, who also worked on Parks and Recreation, dresses the hosts in appropriate attire: Poehler wears her best work overalls and collared shirts (“I enjoy an overall. Who doesn’t?”), while Offerman sports carpenter-ready flannel shirts and jeans. Together, they riff on the makers’ work as they assemble intricate projects—sometimes in a barn-like studio built especially for the show, sometimes outdoors for their large-scale creations. “Nick and I [also] birthed three cows during production, as per our contracts,” Poehler deadpanned. Schematics that flash on-screen detail the materials and tools used, so new and seasoned DIYers can take a stab at makers’ efforts.
Also featured are the duo’s comedy stylings, including “crafting pun-offs” (“I’m getting sick of your scrap . . . book”; “I macro made you, and I can macro break you”), and silly games, such as one in which Poehler makes a blindfolded Offerman guess different woods based on their scents. Though their delivery seems effortless, Offerman admitted their humor wasn’t all spontaneously crafted. “Comedy writer and actor Neil Casey was standing just off-camera pitching us jokes,” he said. “It’s Nick and Amy clown college. In any given situation, we try to come up with one of our stupid rejoinders. And if all else fails, then you do a funny dance.”
Serious judging is left to Barneys New York’s Simon Doonan, and Etsy’s trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson. Offerman, who runs his own woodworking collective , said he and Poehler breathed a sigh of relief when they first heard Doonan and Johnson’s appraisals. Both were continually supportive and appreciative of the show’s contestants, whom he and Poehler helped select from hundreds of applicants. “Art is so personal,” added Poehler, “and Dayna and Simon found a way to critique without being cruel or unfair.”
Winners of challenges receive fittingly folksy prizes—patches—that are sewn onto their work aprons. But not by the hosts, even though Offerman boasted that he has “a pretty impressive whipstitch.” The last crafter standing will be crowned “Master Maker,” and awarded a $100,000 prize.
The real world is a harsh place right now. Poehler recently indicated as much in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that quickly went viral, thanks to the way she responded to prompts like, “The funniest thing about the Trump administration is . . . ” with answers like, “Are you kidding me?”
Given that reality, is it O.K. to take refuge in comfort TV like Making It?
Though Offerman said his chest swelled with pride when he saw Poehler’s bold answers to T.H.R., he’s also all for a reprieve that celebrates handwork. “This is a really important thing that human beings can do in this modern day, consumerist society, where it’s so easy to shop for things with the click of a button,” he said. “It’s such a productive way to spend your time.”
So, has Poehler visited his workshop? The actor doesn’t think so. “Wrong,” declared Poehler. “I shot something there once where I walked in on him humping some kind of equipment—or his beautiful wife. I forget the context. It’s a funny business we are in.”