What has happened to the Great British Bake Off? Now in season 10 (or is it 9, maybe 8?) it has become a showcase of unattainable, unrelatable challenges. No longer is it a baking show to which home bakers can think about, perhaps some day, challenging themselves to bake that irresistible, classic cake/pie/tart/bread/roll/pastry. Now the contestants are asked to bake scenic ‘landscape desserts‘, pita bread on an outdoor fire pit, and what in the world is a ‘Kek Lapis Sarawak‘ cake? I completely understand that this is a long-running program and there is a need to have new “content” for each of the 10 episodes, but biscuit chandeliers? REALLY?
Has anyone else noticed that the bakers are younger, more stylish, and dare I say, more attractive? In past seasons, there was a wide range of ages. But not so much any more. Where’s the Val, Diana, Brendan, Norman and Nancy today? Is this home baker now too old for the commercial Channel 4 audience? Also, these much younger contestants, with their perfect teeth, coifed hair and slim bodies appear to be in ‘character’ now … much like MasterChef.
Season 1, which (unless you have a streaming service) we in the U.S. have never had the opportunity to see, featured 10 home bakers baking in the imposing tent which then moved around the U.K. to six different locations. It was all about the classic bakes, ranging from puddings to breads to cakes.
The judges were Paul Hollywood, a seasoned bread baker, and Mary Berry, the Julia Child of Great Britain. Together with comediennes Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins as the sympathetic, caring, yet off-beat presenters who were always there to bolster a sagging souffle, the show was an immediate hit. Let’s not forget the music. Combining cellos, violins and a xylophone, the tension-building introduction perfectly set the mood of the show.
The logistics of a roving tent must have been too daunting because in Season 2 the tent became permanently setup on the beautifully landscaped grounds of a 17th-century mansion house. The number of contestants increased from 10 to 12 and a “star” baker was introduced. It was official. The Great British Bake Off was a huge hit!
Season 3, which here in the U.S. is referred to as Season 1, is when the rest of us fell in love with this charming baking show. We were tired of the gimmicky, cut-throat, competitive, backstabbing drama which was so prevalent in our cooking shows. We all fell in love with this simple format and with contestants who actually cared about each other, helping each other out when a crisis was imminent.
Yes, there was one incident in Season 4 when Diana is accused of leaving Ian’s ice cream out of the freezer, which caused his bake to fail, and thus being eliminated. Diana left the show because she said the program was edited to make it look as if she left the ice cream out when, in fact, she had put it back into the freezer. She departed the show because of how she was portrayed.
The BBC series ran for six seasons, but when Channel 4 purchased the show, Mary, Mel and Sue left. Paul Hollywood remained. We were then introduced to Prue Leith as judge, replacing Mary Berry. Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig took over for Sue and Mel. Yes, they get the job done, but with gimmicks and slapstickish comedy, none of the clever, witty interplay we so enjoyed from Mel and Sue.
The first six seasons of this beloved show are constantly rerun on PBS, while Netflix has kept us up-to-date on the recent three. Will I continue to watch? Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss one episode. But I do miss the eccentric, aging, snaggle-toothed, rural baker who is completely uncomfortable in front of the camera, but was such fun to watch.