The untold truth of Nailed It!

Television viewers are accustomed to seeing cooking challenges such as Top Chef and Chopped, in which talented chefs use every ounce of their skills to create delectable dishes that look amazing and taste even better. Debuting in March 2018, Netflix's Nailed It! turned that concept on its head, tasking supremely untalented bakers with cooking up recreations of intricate cake creations to deliver predictably awful results.

"It's three people who don't know how to bake who are competing to kill me," host Nicole Byer jokingly described the premise to NPR. She and co-host Jacques Torres, a world-renowned pastry chef who originally hails from Algiers, Algeria, then judge the resulting dessert abominations, which have little resemblance to the gorgeous cakes they're meant to be copying. A $10,000 prize is then awarded to the winner. "It's part competition, part hot mess," is how Netflix has described the show. 

The success of Nailed It! has been evident, yet how much do fans really know about the its origins, how contestants are selected, its international outreach, and more? Read on to find out all about the untold truth of Nailed It!

Nailed It! was inspired by Pinterest fails

At some point during the mid-2010s, "Pinterest fails" became all the rage, and the cake versions of these fails, well... took the cake. Amateur bakers would share photos of their failed attempts at creating DIY versions of beautiful cake creations, contrasting the original with the horrific result. While one might assume these tragic attempts at baking might provoke humiliation, the opposite proved to be true as people proudly displayed their icing-coated tragedies.

The awful attempts at recreating the kind of elaborate cakes seen on such TV series as Food Network's Cake Wars spawned memes that overtook the internet, most of them sharing the same tongue-in-cheek caption: "Nailed it!" 

Speaking with the Los Angeles TimesNailed It! executive producer Jane Lipsitz described how those memes came to inspire the show. As she and her team at production company Magical Elves were preparing to pitch some ideas to Netflix after learning the streaming service was seeking new cooking shows, a  development executive showed the team some of the memes. According to Lipsitz, "we just all started laughing, and we said, 'Why not?' Thinking it was a long shot. And we walked into the meeting [with Netflix] and they bought it in the room."

Nailed It! spawned holiday spinoffs

Since Netflix is notorious for keeping its viewership information close to the vest, a show's renewal is often the only barometer by which to measure its success. With that in mind, Nailed It! has apparently been an ongoing hit for the streaming service. 

Following the first season in spring 2018, Netflix announced a special-edition season of Nailed It! was on the way later that year. Nailed It! Holiday! made its debut during that year's Christmas season. In this version, hosts Nicole Byer ("St. Nicole") and Jacques Torres ("Jacques Frost") oversaw an array of hellish holiday treats gone horribly wrong. 

Nailed It! Holiday! was (apparently) streamed enough that a second season arrived in 2019, featuring special guests Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell, David Burtka, Bridget Everett, Jason Mantzoukas and Ron Ben Israel. In a trailer, host Nicole Byer pontificated on the second season of the Yuletide-themed "baking show that goes for a ho-ho-ho but instead gets a ho-ho-oh no!" 

Adding even more holiday cheer, Byer and Torres also hosted a YouTube-only spinoff Sleighed It!, featuring such Netflix stars as Ashley Tisdale, Kiernan Shipka and even Byer herself creating their own spectacular cake failures. 

Critics loved Nailed It!

Reviews of Nailed It! weren't just kind, they were downright glowing as critics embraced the anything-goes spirit of the show and contestants who were in on the joke, not merely the butt of it. "Need something to break the gloom of an emotional funk?" wrote Entertainment Weekly. "This could be the cure."

BuzzFeed declared the show to be "honestly hilarious," while The New Yorker described Nailed It! as an "absurdist, hilarious, occasionally incoherent series" that was also "emotionally restorative." Thrillist took a bit more circumspect approach, pointing to "gimmicks [that] feel like they're there only for gimmicks' sake," but ultimately agreeing that the show's "few flaws are outweighed by the sheer delight of watching the bakers gleefully struggle." Then there was Vulture's declaration that Nailed It! "is the cooking show you did not know you needed." 

While critics were overwhelming in their praise for Nailed It!, there was the occasional dissenter. The reviewer at the Evening Standardfor example, dismissed the show as "an old-fashioned confection; laughing at people doing things badly just isn't satisfying any more."

Nailed It! was remade for Mexican viewers

In August 2018, Bloomberg reported on Netflix's plan to produce a Spanish-language version of Nailed It! for Mexican viewers. This, the news outlet pointed out, marked the first time Netflix had remade one of its reality shows for a particular international market.

The Mexican version — aptly titled Nailed It! Mexico — debuted in February 2019, but original hosts Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres were nowhere to be seen. Instead, two new hosts were hired: Mexican comedian, TV host and actor Omar Chaparro (seen as a Pokemon trainer in 2019's Detective Pikachu) and famed Mexican cake artist Anna Ruiz.

As Vanguardia reported, Chaparro loved that the show allowed him to "be me... to play and expand on my way of being without trying to imitate Nicole Byer. They were looking for someone who was very natural. It fits me like a ring on my finger." In fact, producers told him they wanted the show to have such an air of unpredictability that if he needed to use the restroom, "they would follow me with the camera... That is the spirit of the program, throw yourself into it even if it doesn't work out for you. "

There are other international versions of Nailed It!

The successful launch of Nailed It! Mexico opened the floodgates for Netflix to bring the format of the baking-bad reality competition to other international markets. In fact, Yahoo! Finance reported that Netflix issued a letter to investors in April 2019 to declare the Mexican version of Nailed It! had garnered "three times more first-month watchers in Mexico than the dubbed U.S. version." In that same letter, Netflix announced plans for different versions of the show for various European nations. 

By October of that year, those plans had firmed up. As Refinery29 reported, Netflix was launching uniquely tailored iterations of Nailed It! in France, Germany and Spain. All the various shows followed the same format, and echoed the original's hosting pattern by partnering a comedian with a pastry chef (with a sense of humor, of course). Nailed It! Germany featured hosts Angelina Kirsch (a model and TV host) and master confectioner Bernd Siefert, while Nailed It! France starred French comedian Artus and pastry chef Noémie Honiat, a fan favorite when she competed in the French version of Top Chef. Finally, Nailed It! Spain introduced singer/actress La Terremoto de Alcorcón and pastry chef Christian Escribà.

How terrible bakers can get cast on Nailed It!

Anyone who believes their cake-baking skills are terrible enough that they'd make ideal contestants on Nailed It! may wonder what it takes to be cast on the show. According to Decider, the process actually isn't all that complicated. After getting in touch with Netflix, Decider revealed that the show found its competitors via a typical reality show casting call, and even sent all the information necessary. "Want to be a contestant on Nailed It!? Email us your name and a picture of your best baking fail to naileditcasting@magicalelves.com," read the response from Netflix.

That was how Wisconsin art teacher Shelisa Schmidt was cast for the fourth season of Nailed It! As she told WQOW News, she'd been a fan of the show since it began and decided to contact producers, never expecting she'd actually get a response.

"I sent out a random email last winter and I just put in there that I was an art teacher but I was really bad at cooking," said Schmidt. "I'm also really creative so people think that I'm good at... decorating cakes and stuff; they think I would be good at it, but I am not."

Nailed It! host Nicole Byer called out Netflix over an onscreen thumbnail

Nailed It! isn't the kind of show anyone would expect to become embroiled in controversy, yet that's precisely what happened thanks to the onscreen thumbnails that Netflix viewers encounter when browsing to choose something to watch. As E! News reported, a Twitter user (whose tweet has since been deleted) wrote about being dismayed to see a Nailed It! thumbnail that featured Jacques Torres and assistant director Weston Bahr (known affectionately to fans as Wes). Host Nicole Byer, arguably the heart and hilarious soul of Nailed It!, was conspicuous by her absence.

Byer shared her thoughts about the thumbnail, and did not hold back. "If Netflix didn't sign my checks and give me a huge platform and opportunity to showcase my comedy, I would talk about how f***ed up and disrespectful this is to me a black woman," she declared in a tweet she later deleted. "I would talk about how this [is] essentially white washing for more views," she wrote in another now-deleted tweet, adding: "To be clear. I know there are thumbnails with and without my face... This one just seems for lack of a better word deliberate. Again I love my job."

Netflix responded to the accusations of "whitewashing" over Nailed It! thumbnail

After Nicole Byer made her feelings crystal clear on being "whitewashed" out of Netflix's onscreen thumbnail for Nailed It!, the streaming service responded to her concerns. As TVLine pointed out, "Netflix is known to run 'A/B' tests of different thumbnail images on its homepage, tailored to specific customers/their established preferences," which appeared to be the issue in this case. 

Byer later issued another tweet, and this time she didn't delete it. She explained that she deleted those earlier tweets after speaking with one of "the execs on my show about it," which led to further conversation. According to Byer, "the thrilling conclusion is the removal of the image and a conversation about how the thumbnails are made and selected that I'm happy with." 

The original Twitter user whose post kicked off the whole thing later tweeted to Byer about what took place. "I'm glad it came to a good resolution!" the tweet read, along with a promise to delete that original tweet, concluding with "thank you for all your hilarious work and keep up the great work!"

The producer of Nailed It! explained why viewers love the show

Viewers have clearly taken to Nailed It!, and series executive producer Jane Lipsitz has a theory about why the show has been so embraced by Netflix subscribers. "I think people are drawn to Nailed It! because there's a lot of things that people recognize and love in a traditional baking or culinary show," Lipstiz told the Los Angeles Times. "But I think we really flipped it on its head and brought something unexpected."

Lipsitz also credited the show's success to its uncomplicated format. "It's simple and it's feel-good and it's funny," she added. "And I think it feels like this is a time that people really just need that. It's really a show for people who love comedy. [And] it's a show for people who love baking."

As Lipsitz explained, Nailed It! serves as an antidote to the aspirational "saturation of perfection" that permeates TV cooking shows and, on a larger scale, social media in general. "It's really refreshing to be watching a show where imperfection and failure is actually celebrated," she explained, "because that's much more closely connected to everybody's human experience."

How host Nicole Byer responded to the show's Emmy nomination

Nailed It! has not only been embraced by viewers and critics, in 2019 it received the recognition of the Television Academy when the show received its first Primetime Emmy nomination. As Deadline reported, Nailed It! was nominated in the Outstanding Competition Program category (the award ultimately went to RuPaul's Drag Race).

According to host Nicole Byer, her first reaction to news of the nomination was straight-out disbelief. "My roommate was watching the nominations live... he was like, 'Nicole, Nailed It! was nominated for an Emmy,' and I was like, 'No, it wasn't.' And then I got phone calls from people," Byer told the Los Angeles Times, admitting her reaction then turned to pride. "So, top to bottom, I think we deserve [the nomination]," she added.

Nailed It! co-host Jacques Torres had a similar response. "I couldn't believe it," he told the Times. "Yes, I love the show; I love what Nicole [does], but at the end of the day, I'm a chef. I'm in the kitchen all the time. I was not expecting something like this... And, look, the message of the show is great: Don't be afraid to fail."

Nicole Byer reveals why producers hired her to host Nailed It!

As Nicole Byer's IMDb page demonstrates, she has a wealth of screen credits to her name, but hosting a TV cooking show was not among them. When producers of Nailed It! sought a host for their failure-celebrating culinary competition, the goal was to find someone who could strike the right comedic balance to the proceedings, the ability to mock the ridiculous results without being too snarky about it

As Byer told NPR, they were looking for some very specific traits. "Good at poking fun but not being too mean," she explained. When producers saw Byer performing standup comedy, they knew they had found their host. In fact, Byer admitted she would have a difficult time if she was required to bring a nasty edge to her hosting duties. "I'm not mean, I can't do a roast," she added. "It's so hard for me to insult people."

Meanwhile, the show's contestants provide her with plenty of comedy ammunition with their continually awful attempts to recreate elaborate, over-the-top cake creations. "People are incredible," Byer told the Los Angeles Times. "They're truly so wild. They truly top each other with the mess they make."

Why chef Jacques Torres loves working with Nicole Byer

On-camera chemistry is a tricky thing; it's either there or it isn't, and the camera reveals all. Sometimes people mesh and sometimes they don't, and viewers are able to sense when it's genuine and when it's lacking. While Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres have demonstrated an easygoing familiarity that pervades Nailed It!, she admitted she was initially uncertain about how well pairing a brash comedian with minimal baking experience and a celebrated pastry chef would actually work. Yet when she and Torres first met, she recalled, they hit it off immediately.

"I had looked Jacques up before meeting Jacques and then I was like, 'Oh my f***ing God, they put me with a world-renowned, very well-respected French pastry chef,'" Byer told Entertainment Weekly. Yet this unlikely duo clicked immediately, the pair told the Los Angeles Times, resulting in a real-life friendship. 

According to Torres, being paired with Byer for Nailed It! is as joyful and hilarious as it appears onscreen. "I love to work with Nicole because we laugh all day," Torres told EW. "She makes jokes all day, and she's so good at what she does."

Why actor Paul Scheer found competing on Nailed It! to be "nerve-wracking"

Beyond the terrible baking, one of the most entertaining aspects of Nailed It! is the addition of celebrity guests to help judge the results. One of those guests was actor Paul Scheer, known for such TV comedies as The League and Black Monday. Scheer, however, didn't want to judge — he wanted to be a contestant. His wish came true in the 2019 season of Nailed It! Holiday!

Speaking with Cinemablend, Scheer admitted he went into the competition with a certain degree of cockiness, given that he enjoys cooking and baking. That confidence, however, went right out the window when he saw what he was supposed to recreate. "And then once they reveal that first thing, you're like, 'I know nothing. I'm terrible. I need to kill myself. Why am I doing this to myself?'" he said, describing competing on Nailed It! Holiday! as "the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done."

Having been through the experience, he advised anyone competing on the show to take their time and focus at the start. "Because that's where I think the mistakes are made... that's the stuff that you need to get right."

Why one celebrity guest judge on Nailed It! left Nicole Byer "so annoyed"

One celebrity guest achieved Nailed It! infamy due to a misunderstanding about how long taping would take. Super Troopers star/director Jay Chandrasekhar, he told ET Canada, was told filming would take two hours. When it stretched to more than four, he told producers he needed to go pick up his kids. When he returned, picking up a coffee on the way back, he was greeted with eye rolls and disbelief that he'd held up shooing even further by stopping for java. Assuming his exit and return would be cut from the show, Chandrasekhar got a big surprise when he watched the completed episode and saw his unexpected exit was the focus of the episode. "They left in all the stuff where I left to get my kids... like they really went after me," he said, adding, "Weirdly, I'm kind of most famous for this show."

Speaking with Daily Beast, Byer explained her side of the story. "Oh boy, I was so annoyed," she said. "It ended up being very, very funny. But in the moment I was like, someone f***ed up. Someone didn't tell this man it was a 10-hour day."