Fake by the Ocean
Imposter in Aisle 5
Winner Fakes All!
With Netflix now reaching over 200 million households worldwide, there’s a whole array of wild, wacky and entertaining shows on the streaming platform. Not all of them are hits, and a fair few do fall into the annals of cancellation hell, but there’s also a growing market of reality TV offerings here too. Cheap to produce and banking on big numbers, it’s unsurprising to see Netflix go down this route to try and sustain numbers on its platform. Given they already have a gameshow about the floor is lava and another about sleep deprivation, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see a show like Is It Cake pop up.
Is It Cake is, in its simplest form, a combination of a guessing game and a baking competition. There’s a reason gameshows like Deal or No Deal have been around so long, and it does make for some good TV… if the format is right. For Is It Cake though, there’s a lot wrong with this, which I’ll get into in a second.
The competition itself brings together nine amazing cake artists from around the world, who compete against one another to create hyper-realistic cakes that look like everyday items. Their goal is to make these look so realistic that they trick the 3 judges each episode and walk away with a cool sum on money.
Each episode begins with a guessing game, with bakers made to choose from 6 different items on a “cake wall”. One of those is a fake and actually made of cake, while the others are the real deal. With a good distance between the contestants and this cake wall, these bakers essentially guess their way into picking the right one by sheer luck (unless they have binoculars that we can’t see) before then baking their way into the final round. The winner from this then plays one final game to obtain an additional sum of money from two bags of money. One is a cake (which grants the money) and the other is a bag of money (which… doesn’t get you the money?)
The premise itself is wild and wacky but the biggest problem comes from the lack of logic or thought that’s gone into this. Contestants aren’t allowed to get up close and personal with these food items on the cake wall which seems like a missed opportunity. Why not just put them in glass boxes and allow the contestants to actually use their wits and baking knowledge to figure it out? Instead, they’re quite far away and even when these guys and gals do win, the judges they show their food to are a mixed bag of actors and comedians – with a couple of food critics thrown in.
The final episode is particularly egregious in that respect, with the three chosen judges all actors and with no qualifications in baking or culinary skills (unless I’m mistaken, in which case ignore this sentence!). Given the winner is chosen based on the credentials of how well their cakes look and taste, you’d think Netflix would have at least grabbed a couple of chefs from one of their other shows.
And that brings up the other problem with this series. Is It Cake is loud, with a lot of shouting and screaming right the way through. The silly quips and jokes don’t always land, and sometimes feel cringey. There’s also a fair amount of shameless plugging for other Netflix Originals right the way through. Some of the judges are, predictably, from other Netflix shows while the name-dropping for various Originals just feels annoying after a while.
But yet, despite all those gripes, this is probably going to be one of those shows that Netflix is banking on getting big for the sheer outrageous and ridiculousness of it all. There’s a reason shows like Selling Sunset do so well and while Is It Cake doesn’t have the star power nor the press coverage backing it to make it that big, there’s definitely potential for this one, depending on word of mouth.
Personally though, I’ve never been a fan of guessing games and the lack of any sort of smarts or intelligence put behind picking from the cake walls make this feel like a bit of a missed opportunity. Netflix tries to have its cake and eat it but it’s clear from the first taste to the last, that the balance of flavours here aren’t quite right.
vERDICT - 5/10