Reality television is not immune to Hollywood’s penchant for resurrecting old brands and repurposing intellectual property. In their desperation to make their way through the clutter of hundreds of TV shows and the most engaging distractions of TikTok, they scratch at anything that might be recognizable.
But with her new cooking contest Easy Bake BattleNetflix has done a very smart thing: it used the IP and then ignored it.
When I tuned in to Netflix’s new cooking competition Easy Bake BattleI expected a battle with, and here was my mistake, Easy-Bake Ovens, the 1960s toy oven with a light bulb for heating (which somehow wasn’t the first toy oven).
I missed the fact that the word “oven” wasn’t actually in the title, and that Netflix’s press release simply said that the show was “inspired by Hasbro’s iconic Easy-Bake Oven.”
Yet that iconic oven, or at least its most recent incarnation, along with Easy-Bake mix boxes, are there on set, only to be ignored.
For the second time in a week, Netflix has taken a beloved brand and turned it into an aggressively generic competition reality show.
queer eye Guacamole boy Antoni Porowski performs in high-waisted pants with exuberance and excellent enunciation, serving as a judge alongside a different guest judge each episode.
They’re judging three contestants, starting with The Dish Dash, which is a race to finish a dish related to a real-life situation: throwing together a quick dinner for a date night or frying up a late-night snack, as one does. .
Contestants have a limited time to make their dish, but they also compete to finish first, placing their dish on a lighted stand to stop their clock.
Antoni explains that the evaluation will be based on “how easy your dish is” and says that “we are looking for less time and ingredients, as well as smart tricks to save time”.
But they’re not looking for those things, and I’m still looking for clever time-saving tricks, because like the Easy-Bake Oven, most of those things are missing.
Don’t get me wrong: I love tricks! (Y tricks.) Ever since the Food Network handed over its primetime to 4918 versions of the same cooking competitions hosted primarily by Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, instructional cooking has faded from primetime. Offering a handful of practical advice is a good way to split the difference between ruthless competition and education.
Poor me, Easy Bake BattleTips from are insightful things like “Haley’s got shredded cheese,” which, imagine, melts faster than non-shredded cheese. Episode one guest judge Kristen Kish, who I love and would follow on the worst shows I guess I have here, says, “Honestly, one of the best home hacks for anyone is frozen spinach.” Is that a gimmick, or just a thing you buy?
Antoni demonstrates his culinary prowess with his own trick in episode three, which involves poking a hole in the top of a yogurt container, sticking a teaspoon into it, and then freezing it to produce what he calls “popsicles.” That seems more like magic, turning yogurt into ice cream.
The most interesting fact I learned in the first two episodes is that Antoni is apparently called “Ant” by those who know him well, or at least that’s what Kristen calls him.
A chef in the first episode wraps potatoes in damp paper towels to microwave them, then does something pretty clever that I’ve never seen before: he cooks pasta in the oven by coating it with seasoned liquid. Unfortunately, that is not labeled “Easy Hack”.
The evaluation criteria themselves are equally curious. The on-screen text tells us how long each contestant took to make their dish and also shows the number of ingredients, but in an early round, the person who takes the longest and uses the most ingredients wins, while the person who won the race goes home.
After The Dish Dash eliminates one competitor, the other two move on to The Easy-Bake round to compete for $25,000.
Oh! There it is, the Easy-Bake Oven! Right? Tell me you’re actually going to be using the Easy-Bake ovens that are right there on the set in the round called “The Easy-Bake”.
“Welcome to the big Easy-Bake Oven, where you will have to cook your entire dish,” Antoni tells the second group of contestants. There is!
But wait, there is a catch. “We’ve created a special next-generation, full-size Easy-Bake Oven that captures the spirit of the original,” he explains in the first episode.
That specially created, state-of-the-art, full-size Easy-Bake oven infused with alcohol in Easy Bake Battle? It is, and I bet you never saw it coming, an oven.
It’s just a standard commercial convection oven with French doors, the kind we’ve seen on dozens of reality cooking shows. A seedy oven. No light bulb! No sliding something raw in one side and pulling it out fully baked on the other!
The wall that the oven is embedded in has been designed to look more or less like an Easy-Bake Oven, because there is an outline around the actual oven in the shape of a modern Easy-Bake Oven, and some wallpaper inside and on the oven doors. There’s also a fake dial that looks like the toy version, but you can also see the real oven controls right there, because, you know, it’s a real oven.
Because there is no actual Easy-Bake oven here, the producers have decided to 1) require the contestants to do everything in the oven, and 2) the ovens only stay on for 40 of the 60 minutes.
Oh, and by “make everything in the oven,” I meant “make everything in the oven except everything they make in the fryer and on the stovetop.” (The focal point of your dish should be baked.)
The most interesting idea Easy Bake Battle has been borrowed from Danger!: The champion returns for the next episode. They can win up to $100,000, so there will be no Ken Jennings or Amy Schneiders in Easy Bake Battle.
All of this makes for a handful of funny moments and seemingly delicious dishes, and it’s good-natured and supportive competition, but without the fun or creativity that might come from using the actual brand referred to in the title and being used to attracting to the people. I guess though Easy Bake Battle is the perfect show to fit in with Netflix’s brand identity: thin, generic, forgettable.
Easy Bake Battle
A good-natured but generic cooking contest that has no connection to the toy that inspired it. C-
What works for me:
- Unique episodes with returning champions
- A supportive environment even in a competition.
What could be better:
- Consistent criteria
- Hacks that are actually hacks
- Actually using Easy-Bake ovens