The British reality competition, which returned to Netflix on Friday, has been in decline because of its technical challenges, says Rachelle Hampton. "The increasing strain of the technical challenges demonstrates the trend away from the homey and familiar of The Great British Baking Show toward the spectacle and inflated stakes that define so many other cooking competitions," says Hampton. "Reality shows, of course, have to innovate and change. As the audience broadens with each passing year, it only makes sense for the show to evolve with it. The breakout success of Season 6 winner Nadiya Hussain has changed the show for better and for worse: The producers have chosen increasingly diverse casts year over year (though of course, a host of color would be a much stronger signal of their commitment), but contestants now also know just how high their star can rise after the final bake. It wasn’t uncommon in the early seasons to hear contestants say that their family had convinced them to audition. Now, more than a few already have cultivated the kind of camera-ready persona that comes with knowing that Instagram fame could await them. In juggling these new dynamics and attempting to keep the show relevant, The Great British Baking Show seems to have forgotten what made it so special in the first place. It’s impressive when a competition show manages to feel friendly. Few manage it. That Great British Baking Show fostered an environment where contestants regularly wander over to someone else’s workstation and help them plate at the last minute is something to applaud. But producers seem determined to ramp up the drama by perplexing contestants, not just in arduous technical challenges but in weekly themes that have strayed from tried-and-true pudding and caramel weeks to themes like 'Roaring ’20s' or a 'festivals' week that had six white British bakers making traditional layered Malaysian cakes. Compare that with the final technical challenge for Hussain’s season, which was mille-feuille, an undoubtedly difficult undertaking that is nonetheless easily recognizable. The move toward the obscure doesn’t just belie the show’s status as a comfort watch, it fundamentally changes the aim of the show. If all the contestants are constantly being thrown headfirst into the deep end, what the judges are ascertaining is not their skill but their resourcefulness and resolve under pressure. That’s fine—but there are already other shows that do that."