The Great British Bake Off has been an institution since its humble beginnings in 2010 – mix one part countryside with two parts domestic bliss and likeable characters, and you get a three time BAFTA winning show. It succeeds in creating a narrative and emotional rollercoaster within the niche parameters it surveys – a narrative in which Ian binning his sabotaged baked alaska gripped the heart of the nation. I have still not forgiven Diana’s sabotage. I don’t think I ever will.
The shock reveal that Bake Off was to move to Channel 4 presented its own set of problems. The BBC seemed like the logical, fitting place for a show about amateur bakers being stressed to reside. Channel 4’s remit to ‘innovate and take bold creative risks’? Not so much. The move was announced in 2016 – the same year that Brexit was announced, that Bowie died and Brangelina split up. Dark days. But why did we, the viewers, have such a heartfelt qualm about Bake Off leaving the BBC? The problem, I felt, lay with the public zeitgeist of the time: Bake Off epitomises a simpler, wholesome time wherein baking was fun, and the world made sense.
Bake Off has been on Channel 4 for two years, and nothing has drastically changed. At the time of writing, we’re three weeks in, and the contestants’ personalities are shining through. One baker, Dan, is a Lancaster alumni and therefore deserves to win. A fan favourite this year is undeniably the wholesome Rahul, who bakes ‘to make new friends’. Tell me your eyes didn’t fill up upon hearing that – I dare you. Mental health specialist Kim-joy’s electric makeup and equally as eccentric bakes are a joy to watch, Terry’s moustache is overwhelmingly beautiful, and Ruby’s ability to redeem herself in the showstopper every week is nothing short of heroic. French contestant Manon has been swimming in controversy – especially in Week 2, when she left the plastic collar on her chocolate when presenting her showstopper to the judges. Cheating? Not cheating? #PlasticGate on Twitter was rife – a small reminder that the drama of the real world really does dissipate inside the tent no matter what channel it airs on. For me, it seems that if the viewer watches Bake Off with the same enthusiasm as was present during the BBC era, it will remain iconic. Even so, there seems to be resistance.
The chemistry of the judges and presenters have shifted with new additions; no one can forget the classic duo of Mary and Paul – arguably the Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne of TV baking. Pru is an ample replacement, but with news breaking that she doesn’t bake, one does wonder what the motivation behind hiring her as Mary’s replacement was. She is a Mary Berry replacement aesthetically, but is little more than that personality-wise. I do have sympathy for Noel and Sandi, who had Mel and Sue’s enormous shoes to step into. As a lifetime fan of Noel Fielding, I was happy to see his return to regular television, however, the new dynamic is hindered. Mel and Sue balanced effortless banter with kindness and education. In trying to mimic that, Noel and Sandi may have isolated their appeal to the audience – their interactions are clearly scripted, meaning their personalities can’t shine through.
I will always love Bake Off, and like other fans, will continue to watch it regardless of what channel it airs on. It reflects the mutual love we, as a population, have for watching people do things that we could be doing ourselves (Gogglebox, I’m looking at you). May it live forever, as our weekly escapism.