Type keyword(s) to search


The Great British Baking Show seems to have forgotten what made it so special in the first place

  • 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."


    • Netflix cut a sketch mocking British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the American version of The Great British Baking Show
    • Season 11 feels like a parody of Britishness -- and itself: "Now in its 11th season in the United Kingdom, the show has taken on the role of a well-meaning but overbearing parent," says Emily Bootle. "Every year, it appears in the metaphorical school playground with bunting, drizzle and Prue Leith’s indescribably posh voice, ready to make the rest of the world think that all British people do is sit around eating cream puffs, fanning biscuits with chopping boards and making prim little remarks about sieves. And while it continues to enjoy an incredibly positive reception, this twee, self-referential show of cliche and euphemism has become more than a little insufferable, congratulating itself every time it acknowledges its own character or breaks the fourth wall."
    • The Great British Baking Show's return is a "teeny, tiny cherry atop the giant crap sundae of 2020": "The show’s return is something of a miracle. Originally scheduled to go into production in April, this season finally began filming in July," says Meredith Blake. "Perhaps aware the world was desperate for a serving of good news — and some new TV to watch — producers scrambled to get the episodes to air less than a month after wrapping. GBBO makes its return at a moment when interest in baking has surged."
    • New host Matt Lucas seemed like a strange choice, but he fits in perfectly: "His addition to the cast reintroduced a rat-tat-tat between the hosts that was sadly missing between Noel and Sandy, who just couldn’t seem to get in sync," says Emily Alford. "Though they lack Sue and Mel’s food knowledge, Noel and Matt seem to revive their silliness and easiness with the contestants, which gives the comforting feeling that acquaintances inside the tent simply make the audience privy to friendships so old they’ve achieved the comfort of a well-worn cardigan."
    • Ranking every season of The Great British Baking Show

    TOPICS: The Great British Baking Show, Netflix, The Great British Bake Off, Boris Johnson, Matt Lucas