This new reality show makes me want to cancel Netflix all over again

A knife slices a cake designed to look like a burger clean in half in the show Is it Cake?
(Image credit: Netflix)

This week, Netflix's TV shows continue to get weird. Yes — the house that brought us not one but two seasons of Sexy Beasts, the dating show that uses monster cosplay to try and mask the shallow nature of courtship — is continuing to dive down the rabbit hole. 

No, I'm not talking about The Ultimatum or a surprise drop of Love Is Blind season 3. I'm talking about the fact that Netflix's latest reality show is what happens when someone pitches the idea "let's turn this meme into a show!" 

And this time, we're talking about cake. Or, rather, cake that doesn't look like cake. Yes, for everyone remembers it — and all the people who never got to yell "oh, what the hell is that!?" — Netflix presents Is It Cake?

And this leaves me sitting here thinking "Am I actually paying for this?" Having just canceled Netflix in February, and having returned to Netflix 10 days ago, I'm feeling like throwing my remote out the window in frustration.

Netflix's Is It Cake? is making me reconsider coming back to Netflix

Much like the desserts of Is It Cake?, I now look at Netflix and think "Is it for me?" The answer, more and more, seems to be "sometimes." 

Because this show just looks like a big-budget Saturday Night Live sketch, down to Mr. Day as the host — you can judge for yourself by watching the trailer below. As someone who only watches SNL when a musical guest or host interests me (and doesn't do reality TV), this is not my thing:

But it does remind me of all the shows we all wished would get additional seasons, only to wind up on Netflix's big list of canceled shows. Glow season 4, for example, would be a very nice thing to have — as the season 3 finale left the door open for a very interesting change of pace, with Debbie finally running the show on a new network. 

You might not love Glow, but you probably have a Netflix show that you wish got another season. A colleague of mine, I'm sure, would nominate Dark for this list.

This brings me back to something my mother reminded me: Netflix just raised prices. She saw the news in a message on her TV screen upon logging into Netflix. But that's a story for another day. I'm just here thinking about how Netflix now costs me $19.99 per month for Ultra HD (what, I'm supposed to watch 1080p shows on my 4K LG OLED TV?). Yes, that TV wasn't cheap, but since I can get Apple TV Plus and HBO Max for that same price, I'm just feeling like I should get the same kind of value back.

I've certainly become more price conscious. And how couldn't i? These days, it almost feels like every single person I interact with financially is giving me the smelly end of the stick. It's led me to start a diary or what content I consume and what services I watch those shows on. And to add in that Netflix price hike (4K Netflix is $2 more than before) and the arrival of the least-essential show ever with Is It Cake? Well, it all feels like serendipitous 3-punch-combo.

Netflix hopes to live in the background, but likely knows its price hikes will raise questions.

Why don't I quit? Well, Netflix has two shows I want to watch right now. Last week and weekend, I watched Better Call Saul seasons 2 and 3 at a blistering clip, using a rare weekday off and a weekend day where I was supposed to have plans (which fell apart, as things do). I'm watching season 4 this week, and Better Call Saul season 5 hits Netflix in early April. In the gap between those seasons, I'm going to start the other show I want to watch, Formula 1: Drive to Survive. 

Yes — the racing docuseries about the European motorsport, which The Atlantic's Amanda Mull has explained is a gateway drug to actually watching F1 live streams — has been on my radar for some time now. And with the new season starting this weekend, and I've been curious. 

But what's getting to me is that Netflix is becoming a service where I'll have maybe two shows I want to watch in about a month's time. Maybe I cancel again, I'm not sure. But it's not hard to figure out why Is It Cake? is happening.

Why Netflix makes shows like Is It Cake?

I'm fully aware of why Netflix does this, for what it's worth. First off, shows like Is It Cake? are cheap compared to your average scripted series. Especially one in its later seasons, when talents are able to demand higher paydays. 

So it's not like Netflix could just as easily swap Is It Cake? out for Glow season 4, or anything. But my lizard brain (the part of my mind that doesn't think as critically) often just throws up a pouty emoji when I see yet another Netflix thing that doesn't jibe with the old Netflix, that was pulling together great prestige TV. 

If Netflix didn't do as many of these odd nonsensical shows, maybe it could find budget for a Good Girls return. That said, I don't think the big red streaming machine cares about my logic: Netflix is trying to get a bigger budget by cracking down on account-sharing.

Sexy beast season 2's wild rabbit contestant

Netflix gives us stuff like Sexy Beast's wild rabbit contestant because there is an audience for it. (Image credit: Netflix via YouTube)

Secondly, as I wrote last summer, Netflix seems to have a "let's get weird" strategy on its hands to compete with all the broadcast and cable TV reality TV. This is how we see the network up the ante from the aforementioned Love Is Blind to The Ultimatum, putting couples in increasingly dramatic spots. 

Netflix hopes to live in the background, but likely knows its price hikes will raise questions. ComScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian has often told me that people see Netflix as a service akin to running water. Its shows, such as the rare Squid Game, get all the conversation, and friends tell me even though they think about canceling Netflix, they're too lazy to go through with it. And when Netflix is the "something for everyone, and they mean everyone" service, it's not hard to understand the decision.

Thank the streaming gods, though, that Netflix is a monthly service. Gone are the days of annual contracts, and here are the days when you can drop and add streaming services on a whim. I'm eyeing mid-to-late April for my next farewell, and wondering how Netflix plans to surprise me.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.