TV

Netflix’s ‘Easy Bake Battle’ Really Tried to Fool Us

Nary a dangerously hot single lightbulb in sight.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

There was a not-so-brief moment in the history of Netflix when the streamer seemed to quietly turn itself into the new Food Network. I mean this as a compliment: There’s the beauty and smooth charm of Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat; the poignant stories in Chef’s Table; the genial warmth of The Great British Baking Show; and yes, the laugh-out-loud absurdity of Is It Cake?. Netflix succeeded in making not just food content I enjoyed, but food content I’d watch over and over again.

It was a beautiful, if under-covered, story of Netflix success. The streamer that wanted to win all the Oscars, rewrite the rules of how we watch television, and turn everything and anything into a competition had quietly made a name for itself with the type of show that is rarely sexy but often quite filling. Even if Netflix had started striking out more and more, it seemed food shows were a safe space that could keep on going on the platform, maybe even on autopilot. (I truly believe Nailed It! will survive the rapture and nuclear apocalypse.)

That’s why I was surprised, dejected, enraged, and hurt by one truly craptastic Netflix food show that debuted this October: Easy Bake Battle.

This show is trash. I will die on that hill. And after I die, I will haunt said hill in the afterlife.

Easy Bake Battle is a Netflix food competition hosted by Antoni Porowski of Queer Eye hunger. A simple description reads, “Home cooks put their skills and creativity to the test making fast and easy dishes that are delicious and worthy of a big cash prize.” Simple enough, right? But you don’t get that description when you first see the title. When you first see the title, you immediately say to yourself, “OH MY GERD THEY ARE DOING A COMPETITION BAKING SHOW WITH EASY-BAKE OVENS – LIKE, THE ONES FROM MY CHILDHOOD – THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE GREATEST THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. ” At least, that is what I said to myself as I pressed play.

The contestants were nice enough. Antoni was hot enough. But I was waiting for those little bitty Easy-Bake Ovens. The ones countless children convinced their parents to buy at the toy store so they could bake shitty cookies in a toy box with a dangerously hot light bulb in it. Ahhh, those perfect, wonderful, charming little Easy-Bake Ovens.

But here’s the thing: There is not a single Easy-Bake Oven to be found in Easy Bake Battle. Not a single one! And worse, instead of just letting that failure in advertising be, in a final challenge each episode, Antoni introduces a set of “full-size” Easy-Bake Ovens that the contestants will use to cook their final dishes.

But… those are… just. OVENS. They are JUST. OVENS.

The reveal of the fake Easy-Bake Ovens at the end of the first episode of Easy Bake Battle is one of the greatest disappointments in the history of television. Right up there with Happy Endings being canceled after only three seasons. Right up there with the “Dream Season” of Dallas. Right up there with every time Beyoncé lost Album of the Year at the Grammys.

But Easy Bake Battle is more than just a disappointment. It’s a sign. A sign of the editorial vision and direction of Netflix. It’s safe to say the company takes its viewers and their pleasure a lot less seriously than it should. If the one part of the streamer that seemed immune to most of Netflix’s worst tendencies can’t escape lazy programming like the lie that is Easy Bake Battlehow confident should I be in this company, if at all?

In my mind, Netflix, at its best, functions as a utility, not a luxury. It could and should be the place where you go for TV that goes down easy. Easy Bake Battle shows that the streamer takes that sweet spot a lot less seriously than I thought it did. And the company seems to think viewers like me are too stupid to tell. But we’re not. And we’re losing our patience, if subscriber counts are any measure.

Ironically, turning things around for Netflix could be as simple as an Easy-Bake Oven recipe: Find your lane, stay in that lane, and don’t be ashamed of it. Turn on the light bulb, Netflix, and just keep cooking what I love.

The ones used as set decoration but never for baking do not count.

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