“Is this cake?” Netflix’s Is A Terribly Bad Game Show


Netflix’s short history of game shows has seemed to rely on simple, conceptual premises and audiences that eat lots of edibles. Take Awake, for example, in which test takers are asked to complete a number of tasks after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. There is also The ground is lava in which adult competitors play a children’s game (not to be confused with squid game). There is also To move backwhere contestants must endure flinch-worthy feats — like allowing a rat to crawl through a cage with their face — without flinching. Idiocracy is alive and well.

The last is Is it cake?which relies on a vaguely funny internet trend for a short time when it involved 20-second TikToks. Is it cake?meanwhile, is a 38-minute game show that completely exhausts its premise within the first 20 seconds.

Mikey Day – “one of the white guys from SNL– is the host of the game show for reasons that don’t make much sense to me (did Lorne approve of that, Mikey? What are you doing? It’s a gig you take 10 years after your departure SNL when everything else has dried). It’s eight episodes that involve a limited number of contestants who have to play more than once because cakes-that-look-like-real-things are a very niche profession and, if you don’t mind No, it involves a lot of quirky personalities that you wouldn’t want to be trapped talking to at a party.

The first round of the game show asks three contestants to identify which of a series of otherwise normal everyday items is actually a cake. Whoever is most successful in this trick is able to choose first which of the otherwise normal everyday objects he would like to duplicate as a cake.

In the next round, the bakers are invited to create the objects. They have eight hours. EIGHT HOURS. That means viewers are put through a 10-15 minute montage that condenses eight hours of cooking and decorating. This is the part you fast forward.

Once the cakes are created, three judges comprised of social media influencers, food writers and/or Finesse Mitchell from Saturday Night Live, are asked to choose which of the five elements is the cake. If the judges fail to identify the cake, the contestant moves on to the next round. From the remaining contestants, judges choose a winner based on cake taste and artistic merit. The winner receives $5,000 and an opportunity to win an additional $5,000 in the final round, where a contestant must choose which cake is between just two items (if the contestant loses, the $5,000 rolls over to the next episode) .

That’s it. It’s the show. And it might have been watchable, but barelyif they had limited each episode to about 20 minutes, completely reconfigured the format, and spared Mikey Day that humiliation, but almost 40 minutes per episode, Is it cake? is both horrifying and endless. Again, it’s the evil of the Netflix algorithm, which favors more hours of viewing and works against the baked-in viewer, who doesn’t ask for much beyond a cold snap and from a few minor hits of dopamine. Alas, Is it cake? can’t even offer that.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You can email him here, follow him on Twitteror listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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