There’s no shortage of reality TV shows about building and making things: Making It, Buddy vs. Duff, Craftopia, Dominio Masters, Lego Masters, Assembly Required, Forged in Fire, Meet Your Makers Showdown.
Whether they’re using cake, plywood, dominos, or some combination, most of these shows are competitions. As a result, the focus tips into, at best, the struggles of design and construction, and at worst, interpersonal drama. Some shows, like Lego Masters, are totally uninterested in the actual making.
Enter Netflix’s Making Fun, a perfectly crafted window into the creative and construction process that’s incredibly playful, from the builds to the editing.
Each episode of Making Fun focuses on a single build, taking kids’ ideas and turning them into reality. Its star, Jimmy DiResta, literally describes this as “my nightmare.”
In the show’s intro, DiResta—who’s been on other shows, including an HGTV series and also on NBC’s Making It, where he was the shop master—wanders his farm and tells us, “I don’t really like kids. It’s not that like I hate them or anything … I don’t care.”
His interaction with the kids, which is all via remote video, is an adorable combination of charm and grouchiness, and more importantly, that the kids seem to love, even when he’s expressing irritation with them.
DiResta has a gift: He can talk to kids with a gruff dismissiveness, and they love it, often mirroring his mockery. “Did we satisfy your twisted little dreams?” he asks one kid.
When two kids pitch a massive version of rock, paper, scissors, they later add that they want a punishment for the loser: food dumped on their head. Specifically, they request spoiled chocolate ice cream and “some pickles, cauliflower, and some throw up.”
“You know you guys are sick in the head,” DiResta says. One kid immediately replies: “not as sick as you!”
Even with the attitude, DiResta always takes them seriously, whether he’s agreeing to make their thing or dismissing an idea as impossible. He swipes away kids and ideas until they land on one that seems doable. (I would not be surprised to learn that the winning pitch has been pre-selected.)
Also joining these video chats, and then working on the builds together, are four other bearded men: “Canadian Pat” Lap, John “Graz” Graziano, Derek Forestier, and Paul Jackman. (In one episode, Making It winner Justine Silva joins the crew.)
Making Fun actually cares about their work, and the building process. The guys explain what they’re doing, and we see things actually come together. Sometimes they split up, sometimes they compete, but they are always fun to spend time with.
Along the way are mini lessons in physics, tools, and techniques, and an occasional TV bit. Mid-episode, they check in with the kid(s), who throw(s) in an additional twist.
The final version of whatever the team builds isn’t revealed until a big moment—though disappointingly, the intro spoils most of the final builds.
While this reality show is under the “Netflix Kids” banner, these builds are not reproducible at home, whether the guys are using a band saw to slice giant pieces of foam or a plasma gun to slice through steel. They’re often using equipment and supplies you can’t buy at Home Depot, and we have no indication of the budget or how much time elapses.
With its teaching elements, Making Fun is like a 2020s version of Mister Rogers’ factory visits; it adds the inspirational tone and energy of PBS’s icon remixes. And this 44-year-old kid can’t get enough.
For a reality TV show that’s about having fun constructing things, it’s extremely well-constructed itself. (It’s produced by Inituitive Entertainment.) The editing is exuberant and frisky, with a lot of winks. That starts in the title sequence, during which DiResta’s narration interacts with the on-screen graphics.
The cast and editing ignores the fourth wall, though we never see the production apparatus, like the off-camera build coordinators. “You guys wanted a TV show. This is your punishment,” DiResta says during one particularly boring process. In another episode, they wonder out loud if what they’re doing will make the episode.
In its 40 or 45 minutes, Making Fun delivers builds and a refreshing take on masculinity. These are big men with beards who build stuff, but also joke with each other; non-ironically chat about their hair, and hold hands at one particularly anxious moment; and just embrace having fun with their creativity and kids’ silly ideas.
Making Fun is a playful show about making stuff that actually cares about the creative and construction process. A
What works for me:
- Jimmy’s interaction with the kids
- Seeing the actual construction process
- The playful editing
What could be better:
- Not spoiling the completed builds in the intro
- More of a sense of how long the builds take