Now, we’ve been subjected to many disturbing and upsetting changes these past couple of years. I find myself asking: “Where is the world heading?” “Where is Britain heading?” “Why do I now have to press four on my remote to watch The Great British Bake Off?”. I am not alone in asking this, hundreds of thousands of people tweeted about the channel change last year. The baking paradise which had ma
de its cosy home within the beloved British Broadcasting Corporation was being uprooted and, not only that (!), it was being stolen by the experimental and rebellious Channel 4.
As an enthusiastic groupie for the show, I too was taken aback – however, after reading the initial coverage and opinion articles it became clear that the format of the show wasn’t going to be affected. Channel 4 had a ready packaged audience, whom it would be unwise to upset, and the same production team were making it – it might not be that bad?
August 2017: adverts began to appear, bunting was being tied, and finally biscuit-crunch time was on the horizon. The public still considered the move a disaster and with protesting aplomb, baking equipment had been firmly stored at the backs of cupboards since last year. But, people still tuned in: Channel 4 boasted a huge 12 million viewers for Episode 1 – beating Big Brother in its Noughties prime. No matter how suspicious,every one of these viewers must’ve had a small part in their belly hoping for it to be just as amazing as before. Maybe Paul Hollywood’s piercing blue eyes would hold it together?
So was it a success? Sound the fan-oven- fares, yes it was. There’s still a tent full of Kitchen Aids, gingham cloths, and lovable bakers; and there’s still a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a showstopper. Yes,the presenters are different, yes, the new judge isn’t Mary Berry, yes, there’s ad breaks, but it’s just not enough to break the idyllic bubble of the perfect British baking competition.
So, what are the changes? And how do they qualify?
Sandi Toksvig is one of two new presenters and already had experience of filling big boots, in the form of Stephen Fry on QI, and so had proven her ability to adapt and survive.She also shares a comedic background with previous presenters Mel and Sue, graduating from the comedy society ‘Footlights’ at the University of Cambridge a good 15 years before the comedy duo met at the very same organisation.
Our second fresh presenter, Noel Fielding, is most known for the weird but wonderful The Mighty Boosh,and on the face of it was a peculiar choice. Welcome, experimental influence of Channel 4. Those who have watched the episodes of GBBO Series 8 so far may have noticed the taming of Noel. Perhaps Channel 4 are introducing us gently to the idea, perhaps Noel will steadily become more Boosh-y and we won’t even notice…
Prue Leith, owner of the great cookery school Leith’s, also had a commendable CV behind her. She previously judged on the BBC’s Great British Menu and Channel 4’s My Kitchen Rules. “But these are not baking shows” I hear you shout. True, I agree with you, but what if I let you into a small secret.Sweet old grandma baker Berry doesn’t have roots in baking either, the trickster! So why not give Prue a chance, individual funky-necklace fashion style and all. Does it rival the Berry bomber jacket collection? Does it really even matter?
Finally, the adverts. As the most disruptive alteration, I believe Channel 4 and Love Productions have done the best they can. Channel 4 is a public-serving broadcaster like the BBC, but, although publicly owned, they still receive the large majority of their funding from commercials – so don’t take it personally, it’s a business thing. Thinking of it on the bright side, the breaks allow kettles to be boiled, toilets to be used, and pyjamas to be put on. It also gives us time to log into our social media accounts and blurt our ‘omgs’ and‘#cakes’ to the rest of the world, without missing a single baking pun. Time used wisely.
So, it seems the complaints have hit mostly deaf ears as Channel 4 continues to get audience figures of 8 million halfway through the series. Perhaps, now, you’re feeling more forgiving towards the new Bake Off. If so, give it a try – unless of course you never needed persuading, in which case I imagine you’re watching it already.
Ultimately, if GBBO can survive such momentous change then Brexit might still have a small chance? Although what do I know, my currency is biscuits..