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'Making It' review: Lightweight and colorful summer diversion

Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler host NBC's "Making

Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler host NBC's "Making It." Photo Credit: NBC

REALITY SERIES “Making It”

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday, July 31 at 10 p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Hosted and produced by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, this crafts competition series will pit eight craftsmen and women against each other, as they vie for a $100,000 grand prize. Why Poehler and Offerman? They were, as you know, castmates on the NBC hit “Parks and Recreation,” while Offerman is a highly skilled woodworker who runs his own online business, Offerman Woodshop (offermanwoodshop.com). Each week, contestants will be asked to complete two crafts, which will then be judged by Dayna Isom Johnson, described by NBC as “Etsy’s trend expert,” and Simon Doonan, “creative ambassador for Barneys New York.” Someone will be sent home each week, until just two are left. The winner gets that big check at the end of the six-week run. The contestants — each a veteran crafter — are Joanna Gick, Amber Kemp-Gerstel, Billy Kheel, Robert Mahar, Khiem Nguyen, Jemma Olson, Jeffery Rudell and Nicole Sweeney.

MY SAY Crafting! Who can’t get into a show about this particular subject hosted by Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler. Seriously, who?

You’d be surprised, or not. The crafts market is huge (by one account, a $40 billion, as in “b,” business). Etsy, the online crafts retailer, is a multibillion (that’s “b”) concern.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a financial component to this new series too. In the spring of 2017, NBCUniversal spent around $230 million for Denver-based crafts video tutorial site Craftsy. NBCU rebranded Craftsy as Bluprint (mybluprint.com) in mid-July this year, and is deploying “Making It” to get the word out. (Each episode has a quick in-program plug.)

There’s nothing really wrong with this, while rare is the reality competition show that doesn’t have some kind of commercial tie-in. What is a little discordant, however, is the presence of Offerman and Poehler, a pair of beloved stars who earned that love through sheer talent and a bemused detachment from the excesses of American culture (like network TV commercial tie-ins). “Parks and Rec” had a big heart — this newcomer too — but it also poked fun at the sort of earnest Midwestern values that are so earnestly on display here.

Offerman and Poehler almost seem to instinctively know this reality show segue might be a bit of a stretch, and work to adjust viewer expectations. They’re not playing Ron Swanson or Leslie Knope here, but they’re not playing their opposites either. Poehler jokes, in effect, that she doesn’t know the difference between a hammer and a shovel; Offerman submits to an in-show competition where, blindfolded, he must identify wood types by smell alone. You can almost imagine this in an episode of “P&R.” (Maybe it was in one?)

The show itself is a charmer — full of color and vitality, while the craftsmen and women clearly have the talent and skills to make something worth looking at. The actual crafts part, however, is rushed. You hardly ever see the detailed process of making something but instead the finished product. Moreover, the competition part is restrained almost to the point of nonexistent because judges are attempting to determine the relative merits of — so to speak — an apple to an orange.

As Offerman correctly observes, “It’s like trying to judge a race between a pole vaulter [and] a fish swimming.”

At least this pleasant summer diversion swims effortlessly.

BOTTOM LINE Poehler and Offerman are — no surprise — fun MCs of this lightweight and colorful summer diversion.

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