Editor's Note: This review of ABC's The Baker and the Beauty originally ran April 13, 2020, but with the show's sudden rise to become the most-watched TV series on Netflix currently, as of April 19, 2021, we're republishing the review as it was. Sadly, the show was canceled after just nine episodes in June 2020.
The Baker and the Beauty, ABC's adaptation of the hit Israeli comedy Beauty and the Baker, is a punchy pastelito of goodness that would satisfy the sweet tooth of any rom-com fan. The hour-long series follows Daniel Garcia (Victor Rasuk), a baker who works at his family's Cuban bakery, as his life is turned upside down when he meets supermodel and fashion entrepreneur Noa Hamilton (Nathalie Kelley).
Noa and Daniel's odd couple meet-cute is immediately reminiscent of hits like Notting Hill. As Daniel doubts his four-year-long relationship, he runs into Noa in a restaurant bathroom where she offers some life-changing advice. When Daniel's girlfriend Vanessa (Michelle Veintimilla) publicly proposes to him 10 minutes later, he finds it in him to say no. One shirt that's been destroyed by a bowl of soup later, Noa catches up to Daniel and offers our soggy hero a ride. What kicks off from there is the kind of night Daniel's never even dreamed of having. The world of an international superstar is almost as intoxicating as the superstar herself.
There's an instant spark between the characters, and while Noa and Daniel's attraction is undeniable, the series leads aren't quite selling the passion yet. The series flounders a bit when its aim is sexy instead of sweet. That's likely because of the fact that four episodes in, there haven't been any major threats to Noa and Daniel's budding romance. Despite both having an ex who can't let go, NDAs, and security restrictions, the ease with which these characters get together cuts through the longing and yearning that's a hallmark of many iconic romcoms. Without the build of that much-needed sexual tension, The Baker and the Beauty reads mostly as a modern Miami fairy tale.
Where the series does pick up dramatic tension -- and really shines -- is in the introduction of Daniel's family. Daniel's parents Mari (Lisa Vidal) and Rafael (Carlos Gomez) are an incredibly grounded immigrant couple whose love (and life) story is both fantastically inspirational and the product of hard compromise. Mateo (David del Rio), Daniel's brother, is the epitome of a middle child, both comic relief and one of the best listeners in the whole family. Natalie (Belissa Escobedo), Daniel's sister, is a young woman trying to find her voice in a family that never stops talking. As a whole, the Garcias are the kind of family that worked incredibly hard to have a slice of that American dream. And when the glamorous tornado that is Noa Hamilton rips through Daniel's life, all the Garcias get caught in the wake of destruction.
Another series might miss the mark on a typical "it girl" like Noa. But The Baker and the Beauty gives us someone to really root for when she becomes the one most concerned with protecting the privacy of the Garcias. The family's concerns -- particularly Rafael's -- about their relationship is never something Noa treats as an obstacle. Rather, she sees those concerns as practical and valid, ultimately a sign of how much the Garcias love Daniel. It's clear that as the series unfolds, Noa and Daniel's biggest challenge won't be Noa's world, but Daniel's. Whether they make it or not will all depend on whether Noa can come to love not just Daniel, but all the Garcias in turn.
While not quite on the level of series like Jane the Virgin, or Ugly Betty, there's a promising well of character development to pull from. Overall, The Baker and the Beauty has plenty of delightful soap opera turns, and for the most part, is a satisfying watch for anyone craving a little wish fulfillment right now. And who knows, by the end of Season 1, The Baker and the Beauty could be the sweetest thing on TV.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
The Baker and the Beauty premieres Monday, April 13 at 10/9c on ABC.