If a reality competition show never eliminates contestants, does it still make a sound on network TV?
That’s the question “Parks and Recreation” co-stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are asking with Season 3 of NBC’s “Making It” (premiering Thursday, 8 EDT/PDT), the crafting reality series they produce and co-host. No, they weren’t quite able to avoid sending anyone home all season, but they do mess with the format to add even more positivity to a show brimming with joy and wonder.
“We ultimately want to be the first competition show that never eliminates anyone,” jokes Offerman. “But at least through one episode, we’ve tricked the network. So that’s Nick and Amy: 1, NBC: 0. Or something like that.”
The contest for crafters, artisans and “makers,” as the show calls them, returns at a welcome time for both its hosts and viewers ready for a sunny show to usher in a summer in which the U.S. is starting to return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We always try to take the typical, stressful idea of an ‘unscripted show’ and turn it on its head,” says Poehler. “By watching (contestants) do things, you figure out who they are. You feel more connected to them. You feel less alone. All that good, gooey stuff.”
“(We) are going through a brutal upheaval,” Offerman adds. “Should we pay attention to science or conspiracy theories? And these are gripping, painful, raw, open debates in our country. We definitely don’t want to turn on the TV and continue that cycle, but instead (we want to) be comforted by people treating each other well.”
Season 3 finds its group of makers back at the signature barn for more challenges, such as making a toy that describes their personality or an unconventional family portrait.
“We have a professional cheerleader, an ex-pro baseball player,” Poehler says of this year’s group. “It isn’t the first time we’ve had athletes and crafting combine. It takes a little bit of discipline and practice, and it takes planning, strategy and skill.”
One contestant even left the stoic Offerman a bit starstruck.
“Not to give too much away, but Nick meets somebody who he’s a huge fan of in this season,” Poehler says. “We kept that info from Nick and revealed some juicy info on the air.”
Offerman was genuinely affected by the surprise. “I was like, ‘Oh God, hang on a second, you guys. I’m unexpectedly moved.’”
Poehler hopes the pandemic, which caused a surge in at-home crafting and DIY, will lure new viewers. She got caught up in quarantine trends herself.
“I took up more cooking and baking than I did crafting, to be very honest,” she says. “Like most people, I did a lot of painting, rearranging, purging. And some occasional small light (crafts). But I would never deign to say that I did anything particularly interesting.”
Both Poehler and Offerman are keenly aware of comparisons between “Making It” and “The Great British Baking Show,” another friendly, competition series in a pastoral setting. And they’re big fans.
“I feel like there’s a little bit too much rhubarb in that show, but nobody is asking for my feedback,” Poehler jokes. “What I love about that show, and we wanted to get the spirit and the feeling of (into ‘Making It’) is that … the stakes are gloriously low.”
The comparisons will likely continue with the upcoming Peacock spinoff “Baking It,” which brings the “Making It” touch to a holiday baking competition judged by grandmothers.
“It’s going to have the same kind of vibe: A lot of character-based comedy that shows off people’s great skill,” Poehler promises. “Whether it’s food they’re making and baking, or fine art they’re doing or woodworking, watching someone describe their process is so interesting to me. It’ll be more of that. A lot of silly fun.”