Two things about me:
- I never watch competitive, reality television. I know it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but I don’t have to watch it as a form of entertainment.
- I never watch cooking shows. I own 50+ cookbooks and most of them have never been opened. None of the cookbooks are, The Joy of Cooking, because cooking isn’t one of my greatest joys. I’m not very good at it. My children never knew what moist chicken tasted like because I always overcooked it. I have a medley of about five standard dishes I prepare whenever an occasion arises where I’m called on to cook.
Why, then, have I started watching The Great British Baking Show, also known as The Great British Bake Off in the United Kingdom? I haven’t a clue why American television changed the name.
That’s a good question. I mean why I watch it, not why the name change.
Anyway, let me start by telling you, I absolutely love the show. I’ve only seen the first season and part of the current season (5th) on PBS, but I look forward to it each week.
I first watched it with my daughter. Five minutes and I was hooked. The hosts, the judges, the contestants – I found all of them captivating in their own way.
The show is a search for the best amateur baker in the UK. Each week one baker is judged Star Baker and one baker is eliminated. The Star Baker and other survivors move on to the next week’s competition. When it gets to three contestants, the judges choose a winner. Except for one odd season of thirteen, twelve contestants are there at the beginning.
Let’s look at the players:
The two hosts – they are so funny. Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. They’re like synchronized swimmers. The women work perfectly together. They use humor to calm the bakers and it works. Sue and Mel make the contestants comfortable in the worst of moments. Let’s face it, it’s a cooking show. Things don’t always work out. There are occasional tears.
I giggle each time they give their signature command:
On your marks, Get set, Bake
The two judges – the yin and yang of cooking. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Mary’s kind but honest. I wouldn’t say Paul is unkind but he can unnerve a competitor with just a look. Mary and Paul are the yin and yang of cooking because these two opposite forces are complementary when together. Their duality works.
But I know what your real question is or, at least, I know what piqued my interest when I heard their names – are these names real?
They are. We really do have a renowned Le Cordon Bleu graduate named Mary Berry and a Master Baker, television host named Paul Hollywood. I was sure these were stage names.
Mary has published over 70 cookbooks. Paul, a genius with bread, published the best seller, “100 Great Breads”.
The contestants – regular Joes, or maybe regular Nigels, like you and me. During the weeks, you get to know a little history about each of them. Before long you develop a soft spot for many. You’ll probably pick favorites, and I doubt you’ll completely dislike any of them. Each week, the remaining contestants appear to genuinely feel disappointment for the player who gets eliminated. I’m sure there’s relief, but there’s also caring. Amateur cooks are not mean people.
I’ll admit, I’m an Anglophile. The only talk show I watch regularly is The Graham Norton Show. I’m waiting patiently (not really patiently but I’m waiting) for the new season of Doctor Who. I could go on with all the BBC shows I watch but I won’t. Still, it surprises me that I’m watching a reality, cooking show.
In my opinion, it’s a delightful and amusing production.
The show has reinvigorated baking in the UK. Sales of baking necessities have increased.
Even the critics like the show:
Rachel Ward of The Daily Telegraph stated the program, “has just the right consistency of mouth-watering morsels, good humour, and fascinating history”.
Michel Hogue praised the show by saying, “the show has the four Cs – chemistry, camaraderie, comedy, cakes”. That says it all.
I’m not a fan of change. If PBS continues to share this wonderful show with America, will I continue to watch when they get to Season 8, and the hosts and one of the two judges change? We’ll see, but it seems with British television, I’ve been known to embrace change.
I discovered Netflix has the first four seasons of The Great British Baking Show available, so, if I don’t post next week, you can bet I’m binge watching.