The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) aired the final episode of season eight last Tuesday, leaving many fans with the same taste Martha Stewart probably gets in her mouth whenever she skimps on the “homemade from scratch” recipe and opts for her brandname box mix; very tasty but a bit manufactured.
It seems that the producers of the beloved show have nearly perfected the recipe for a successful season. Ingredients include witty back-and-forths between the judges and contestants, subtle (yet scripted) innuendos, obscure recipes for the technical challenges and just enough drama surrounding burnt pastries to fill the teaser trailers. As far as the contestants go, they needed at least two relatable millennials (Liam and Julia this season), someone with spunk to sass the judges (Yan) and a few genuinely great bakers to keep the standards high (Steven and Sophie).
This season’s relative success (drawing 7.7 million viewers for the finale despite it being on Halloween night) is especially impressive, as it was the first season since the show’s controversial move from BBC to Channel Four.
The show’s move was initially controversial due to Channel Four’s reputation in the U.K., which is comparable to that of TLC or TBS in the U.S. with aged sitcom reruns and an odd mix of “reality” shows. However, I appreciate that Channel Four resisted the temptation to fix something that wasn’t broken, and instead kept constant as much as possible.
Yet the move did force them to recast three of the show’s four consistent personalities. Beloved judge Mary Berry, whose presence was a key ingredient to the show’s initial success, was replaced by Prue Leith. Leith grew into her role throughout the season, but I think she tried a bit too hard to be an exact replica of Berry in the first few episodes.
Also left behind were co-hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. While I do miss their punchy dynamic and friendly joking with one another throughout the episodes, I think that new hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig have some real potential. Fielding’s whimsical outfits and general aura remind me of Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus mixed with Willy Wonka. Definitely not who I originally would have pictured hosting a show like GBBO but they’re making it worth nonetheless.
However, there is no way that Fielding and Toksvig can develop the same type of relationship that Perkins and Giedroyc had — their personalities are just too different. The new hosts are better as individuals, and although I have confidence that they will be able to successfully co-host the show, they should consider taking turns on the stage rather than sharing it.
Aside from all of the changes to GBBO’s hosts and judges, the contestants remained as good-natured and passionate about baking as ever, all competing for the heralded title of Star Baker — and eventually series winner. GBBO maintains a delicate balance between being both relaxing and and tense at the same time. Watching it makes you want to cuddle a cuppa’ tea while simultaneously sitting at the edge of your seat to make sure Stacey doesn’t break the oven door again.