Review: Making It Premieres on NBC

Review: Making It Premieres on NBC

Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler co-host a new craft competition reality show.

Published on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.
Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman co-host Making It on NBC.

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Note: The following review is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the American Craft Council. 

A lot of people probably tuned in last night to watch Making It, the new craft competition reality show hosted by Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler, with a sense of curiosity and anticipation. I tuned in with a vague sense of dread. That’s because, for many months, we at the American Craft Council tried hard to insinuate ourselves into the show. A prime-time show about making? We needed to be at that table. But it was not to be – a fact I reflected on as I watched the good-hearted show on NBC.

We gave it a good try as soon as we got wind of an Offerman-Poehler craft show in the works in early 2017. We tapped an NBC connection – a friend of a friend of a friend – to ask how we could help, which got an immediate, encouraging response. I sent a breezy note to Offerman at his personal email address, which I still had from a profile we published in 2012. He generously hooked me up with the executive producer, and she and I had several animated phone conversations. I told her about the history of craft in the US and suggested contestants and challenges; at one point, she said, “I’m so glad I found you!” That was hopeful. I was asked to audition to be a judge. It was a strange Skype experience – “We need to see more light on your face!” my interviewer kept saying – but it seemed to go OK. Our marketing director applied to be a contestant. Another colleague and I offered a dozen juicy “interstitial” bits for the show, which were delivered to one of the show’s writers for “treatment.” Sounds promising, right?

But then, suddenly, the communication stopped. Calls and emails went unreturned. It was a deafening Hollywood silence. Our courtship came to a screeching halt.

So, as I began to watch last night, I wondered: What kind of show would this be? Would I be filled with self-recrimination? Would I be pining to hear “American Craft Council” over and over again?

Instead, I watched with growing interest as Offerman, an accomplished woodworker, and Poehler, a hilarious craft neophyte, dealt gently and kindly with the eight contestants. There was none of the usual reality-show bite from the judges, either. The force behind department store Barneys’ amazing windows, Simon Doonan, and Dayna Isom Johnson of Etsy were charming. The “interstitial” bits that actually aired provided new opportunities to showcase the chemistry between Offerman and Poehler. In my favorite little segment, Poehler challenged a blindfolded Offerman to identify different kinds of wood by smell. Apparently, even if you lick it, it’s hard to pinpoint mahogany. As other reviewers have said, Making It is a good-natured reality competition; in these turbulent times, it’s a pleasant way to spend an hour. 

Still, as I watched, I could see the ways in which the ACC and Making It are perhaps not a perfect fit. Offerman and Poehler referred to “crafting” and “crafters.” If we did that in American Craft, we’d get hate mail; the creative people we feature are “artists” or “makers.” Most of the Making It contestants seem to be hobbyists – at least a couple of them, Robert and Khiem, are gifted – and the people we serve, by and large, depend on craft for their livelihoods.

There is a common thread, of course. As Poehler said, “Creativity lives inside all of us.” Making is universal, human, and profound, and my job at the ACC is to remind people of that creative heritage. And I like to say the difference between a weekend ceramist – or maybe a Making It contestant – and an ACC Gold Medalist is one of degree, not kind. It’s the difference between 1,000 hours of focused practice and 10,000-plus hours. Watching this sweet show, however, I realized that the spectrum might be a little wider than I thought.

The show continues on Tuesday evenings for five more episodes. Every week, one contestant won’t make the cut and will be sent home. In the last episode, one crafter will be crowned Master Maker and win $100,000. If you want to see another approach to craft, tune in.