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5 reasons Netflix’s kooky competition ‘Is It Cake?’ is worth your time

A man slices into a cake that looks like a pink purse.
Host Mikey Day in “Is it Cake?”
(Netflix)
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This is the Los Angeles Times newsletter about all things TV and streaming movies. This week, we catch you up on our coverage of “the slap heard around the world,” explain the merits of “Is It Cake?” and chat with the creator of “Bridgerton.” Scroll down!

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone whose jaw is still on the floor from the Oscars — but maybe, just maybe, is ready to move on.

In this week’s edition, we split the difference with a round-up of our complete coverage of Slapgate and plenty of streaming escapism. (Yes, we’re still talking about “Bridgerton.” Sorry not sorry.) Plus, we open the mailbag to hear your picks. Remember to send your recommendations to screengab@latimes.com to be featured in a future newsletter!

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ICYMI

Must-read stories you might have missed

Bruce Willis in 2019.
Bruce Willis has decided to step back from acting due to aphasia, a brain disorder that leads to problems with speaking, reading and writing.
(Charles Sykes / Invision/AP)

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years: In interviews with The Times in March, nearly two dozen people who were on set with the actor expressed concern about Willis’ well-being.

Inside the stirring trilogy that made ‘This Is Us’ stars into ‘indie movie’ directors: Three months. COVID delays. A “stupid pool.” Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Justin Hartley explain how they pulled off their interwoven episodes.

‘Promised Land’ may be ABC’s ‘last serialized drama.’ What its fate says about network TV: The bilingual family drama was moved to Hulu after just five episodes. Its creator says the decision points to the future of broadcast TV.

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Producer Paul Feig has an ‘unheard of’ hit rate. Here are his secrets to success: The “Freaks and Geeks” veteran explains his approach to producing, from what Judd Apatow taught him to his two new series, “Minx” and “Welcome to Flatch.”

Turn on

Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Two men in red reflective vests
Stephen Merchant, left, and Christopher Walken in “The Outlaws.”
(Sam Taylor / BBC Studios)

Blessed are we to have Christopher Walken currently featured in two concurrent television series — Apple’s “Severance” first, and now “The Outlaws,” on Amazon Prime. Created by Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais’ erstwhile collaborator, and Elgin James (“Mayans M.C.”), it centers on a diverse group of lesser offenders thrown together doing community service in Bristol, England. Alongside Walken (charming, constitutionally larcenous and just out of prison) and Merchant (a lawyer of little talent), the group includes a pop star (Eleanor Tomlinson), a student (Rhianne Barreto), a young man looking to keep his sister away from his former bad companions (Gamba Cole), a right-wing businessman (Darren Boyd) and a left-wing activist (Clare Perkins) — like a grown-up British Breakfast Club, finding that what binds them is better than what divides them. The series seamlessly blends disparate modes — comedy, romantic comedy, action, suspense, interpersonal drama, political commentary — as the minor criminals meet major ones, and relationships develop within the group and in the worlds they return to. It works on all the intended levels. Stalwarts of British comedy Dolly Wells, Julia Davis and Richard E. Grant pop in for a moment or two. A second season has been ordered. —Robert Lloyd

Watching Yogi Bear steal pic-a-nic baskets in his classic adventures probably never made you think, “That bum should get a job.” But the ever-hungry bear did anyway for “Jellystone” (HBO Max), a fun animated comedy that reimagines your favorite Hanna-Barbera characters as the denizens of one town at the center of endless modern cartoon antics. The updated Yogi is now a doctor, though his dynamic with best pal Boo-Boo Bear — now a nurse — is still familiar. Among the other residents of Jellystone are extreme helicopter parent Doggie Daddy, overconfident and overworked doctor/mad scientist Cindy Bear, cheerfully ambitious (and sometimes reckless) star haberdashery employee Jabberjaw and many, many more. It’s slapstick humor with plenty of heart and energy. —Tracy Brown

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the pop culture event everyone’s talking about

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One man slaps another across the face on a stage
Chris Rock, left, and Will Smith at the 94th Academy Awards.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The twists in Slapgate just keep on coming — and in case you’ve missed any developments, The Times has had you covered every step of the way. On Sunday, we witnessed the ugliest and most unsettling of Oscar ceremonies, in which Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, and her husband, Will Smith, struck the comedian in the face before an audience of millions, then hung around to win the lead actor Oscar. Smith finally issued an apology to Rock on Instagram, though for many, the damage to his legacy was already done. As the film academy, which has condemned Smith’s actions, contemplates consequences for the actor, it remains in dispute whether Smith was asked to leave the ceremony. Rock, who addressed the slap on tour in Boston on Wednesday, has seen his ticket sales skyrocket. And the wider American public is sharply divided over who was in the right. By the time you read this, there may well be new developments — and The Times will continue to keep you updated every step of the way. —Michael Ordoña

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Four women wearing formal gowns and white gloves
Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, from left, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury, Shelley Conn as Mary Sharma and Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma in “Bridgerton.”
(Liam Daniel / Netflix)

It’s been one week — really, just one — since the release of “Bridgerton” (Netflix) Season 2. And while much has been said (and debated over) about its despacito approach to this season’s central romance between Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), the fate of another beloved pairing also sparked plenty of reaction. Creator and executive producer Chris Van Dusen, who adapted the book series by Julia Quinn for television, spoke to Screen Gab about the devastating falling-out of “Bridgerton’s” BFFs, his favorite scene of the season and what he’s watching. —Yvonne Villarreal

The rift in the friendship between Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and Eloise (Claudia Jessie) is a disheartening development this season. Talk about what you were interested in exploring in both those characters separately, and how that led to their eventual falling-out.

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Penelope is invisible as herself, when she’s at these balls and amongst her peers and when she’s out in the marriage market. No one pays her much attention. No one hears what she has to say. But then, when she dons her Lady Whistledown disguise, suddenly she’s loud and she’s brash and she’s so opinionated ... in a lot of ways, she has so much power. She loves being Lady Whistledown, she loves having this power, but her head is also telling her that it can’t be the wisest thing to be, as far as being London’s most notorious gossip writer.

Eloise [is] out on the marriage market this season for the first time. And we see how that makes it so much more complicated for Penelope. And we get this fight between them at the end of the season. And it’s just brutal. That confrontation, it really was a long time coming after seeing Eloise determined to find Lady Whistledown. You see the moment that it clicks on Eloise’s face.

What scene from Season 2 were you most excited for viewers to see?

I tried to be in London during the writing process as much as possible to fully immerse myself in the world in London. Taking inspiration from anywhere I see it is one of the things that I have the most fun doing. And I remember I was walking with my husband, passing this field of daffodils in Green Park, and we sat down, and we eventually lay down and then had this long conversation. And that inspired the scene that you see between Penelope and Eloise at the end of the first episode.

What are you watching these days?

I have a very long “To Watch” list. It’s a little difficult for me to do this job and also lose myself in a scripted television series, so I watch a lot of reality television. “Real Housewives” (Bravo / Hulu / Peacock), “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1 / Prime Video / Hulu / Paramount+), which I’m obsessed with. I watch a large amount of children’s programming because I have small children — I have 18-month-old twins and a 4-year-old. So, there’s a lot of “Paw Patrol” (Paramount+) happening in our house right now. But I was a huge fan of “Succession” (HBO Max). I really enjoyed “Euphoria” (HBO Max), which wasn’t my typical fare — especially with very small young girls, it was a difficult watch. But I think that they did some amazing things on that show, especially visually.

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Break down

Times staffers chew on the pop culture of the moment — love it, hate it or somewhere in between

A knife slices through a cake that looks very much like a burger
Is it burger? Or “Is It Cake?”
(Netflix)

I started watching “Is It Cake?” (Netflix) because the Daughter is a sucker for baking competition shows — and because I wanted to add to my list of “Possible Proof That They’re Pranking Us.” A few episodes in, she had disappeared and I wondered where the time had gone. Here are five things to recommend “Is It Cake?” for your background viewing pleasure.

1. The host: It’s like a threat every time “Saturday Night Live” cast member Mikey Day enters via a glittery revolving “Cake Wall.” Wearing a dead stare to match his deadpan demeanor, he doesn’t know anything about cakes, he’s fully aware of how weird this is and he’s just going to make it weirder. At one point, he even asks a judge to actually judge his swimsuit.

2. The action: There are at least four games in each 30-minute episode: “Find the Cake,” to decide who gets to bake; “Bake the Cake”; “Fool the Judges”; and “Cake or Cash.” It’s almost deliciously cruel to the contestants. Someone’s always moving the finish line.

3. The hecklers: Bakers who lost “Find the Cake” sit together and observe. Idle hands lead to trash talk, poking fun at the host and distracting the actual competitors with comments as benign as “That’s going to be cool” and as insidious as “What’s she doooooing?”

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4. The judges: “Is It Cake?” is a cross-promotional confection, as Netflix pulls judges from its roster. The judges — a new trio in each episode — only come into play once. Now excuse me while I see what Chris Witaske’s “Chicago Party Aunt” is all about, some research he evidently did not do before signing up to be a judge on “Is It Cake?”

5. The taste: It’s secondary here, maybe even tertiary, in all the ways you can think of. It doesn’t come into play unless there’s a tie during “Fool the Judges,” and that is because money’s on the line in a pot that accrues if bakers can’t pass the final test of choosing which bag of money is actually cake. Nihilists. —Dawn M. Burkes

Mailbag

Recommendations from Screen Gab readers

A group of people at a party covered in cake frosting
A scene from “Detectorists.”
(Acorn TV)

“Detectorists” (Acorn, IMDb TV) has achieved what many shows have attempted: highlighting a mostly unknown and somewhat odd group of hobbyists in a gentle, knowing and funny way. The metal detectorists have enough awareness to be a little embarrassed by their hobby, but they are passionate and proud of what they do. The show’s writing and gorgeous settings in the English countryside drew me in immediately, and there’s enough drama and action (still pretty gentle — these are people who wander through bucolic fields for fun, after all) to bear repeated viewings. Great and underrated show for your consideration!

Bryan Allison
Las Vegas

Want to be featured in Screen Gab? Please send your recommendation to our email address — screengab@latimes.com — with your name and location. Submissions should be no longer than 200 words and are subject to editing for length and clarity.

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What’s next

The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week

A painting of Benjamin Franklin in grey
Benjamin Franklin portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, circa 1785.
(National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Fri., April 1

“Slow Horses” (Apple TV+): Gary Oldman stars as the head of a home for wayward spies in this drama series adapted from Mick Herron’s book series.

Sun., April 3

The 64th Grammy Awards (CBS): Since last weekend’s big awards show went off without a hitch, let’s do another!

Mon., April 4

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“Benjamin Franklin” (PBS): The most famous American of his generation receives the Ken Burns treatment in this conscientious docuseries.

Thurs., April 7

“Tokyo Vice” (HBO Max): Michael Mann returns to TV as the director of this crime drama, which follows an American journalist (Ansel Elgort) covering Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police.

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