Sep 10, 2018

[TV] Sugar Rush: Season 1 Review

Netflix's efforts to continue to add original content to its library has left no stone unturned in terms of possible genres of movies and television. And thus apart from its various efforts to tell different types of stories, there are also their various reality television ventures that seem to be following their other content deals to some degree.

Some time after the likes of Zumbo's Just Desserts were added to the Netflix library we get Sugar Rush, an original reality television competition show that includes Adriano Zumbo as one of the hosts. That can't be a coincidence, right?

Now I'm not necessarily a big fan of reality television as a collective genre but I do recognize that I at least tend to enjoy the competition-driven shows as at least people are being judged based on their abilities or creations. And this is definitely one of those shows, especially given it features more competent pastry chefs unlike the other Netflix dessert show Nailed It!

Synopsis: Sugar Rush is an original Netflix reality television cooking competition that features four professional teams of two competing for a prize of $10,000. The show is hosted by Hunter March and the first season spans 8 episodes.

In the show four teams of two professional bakers are challenge to create three types of desserts based on a theme presented by the judges Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo together with a third guest judge. The first round is cupcakes. The second round is confections. And the final round is cakes. Contestants are 3 hours to get through the first two rounds and any time left over is added to the final cake round. However once all teams have completed the desserts for a round, the judges gather and choose a team to eliminate, which means having them stop preparing their confections.

The final two teams will go head-to-head creating a massive cake of some sort that fulfills the theme. As each team would have managed to have banked some time from the first two rounds, this is played out by having the team with more team start their cake first and the second team joins in based on their extra time.

What I Liked: Sugar Rush feels like the more serious version of Nailed It as you have skilled chefs working on making amazing things with limited time whereas Nailed It is more about setting up the home cooks to fail yet still having fun with the experience. And the resulting dishes do get to be pretty amazing, which in turn reminds one of the magical creations of Adriano Zumbo as featured in the aforementioned Zumbo's Just Desserts.

Seriously, there are some majorly creative ideas at work in this show.

Clearly some thought is put into which teams are selected for the show and you do end up with some very interesting combinations of characters or skill sets. As the show is structured to test different baking or dessert-making techniques, no one team is guaranteed to succeed. Thus it's not uncommon to see experienced cake chefs not make it to the cake round where they could have showcased their skills as they ended up getting eliminated making confections. And of course there's the time element which also has a significant effect on the decision-making for desserts. More than once you'll see teams plan out simpler desserts to bank more time but end up getting criticized for underwhelming results.

What Could Have Been Better: Hunter March is an odd choice for host, which seems to be a problem across many of the original Netflix reality television ventures. His banter with the contestants often falls flat and his need to throw out more punchlines during judging often feels out of place or at least out of sync with the other judges.

There are also aspects of the contest criteria that feel unspoken of pretty obvious, the biggest one being the odd need to create very tall cakes for the final round. Maybe I missed the mention somewhere but no one seems to talk about the cakes needing to meet a height requirement and yet you see everyone that makes it to the final round mapping out cakes that are typically taller than they are wide. And I don't quite get what's the point behind that or what challenge it puts the contestants through.

TL;DR: Sugar Rush is still an entertaining cooking competition with an interesting time pressure element that's put to pretty good use. As it's only its first season the show obviously has room to grow but it certainly has a lot of potential. Thus the show's first season gets a great 4 amazing sugary creations out of a possible 5.

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