It used to be the event of the season.
I remember watching The Great British Bake Off final at my university union with a massive mug of tea and cake as the rammed café whooped and cheered the contestants on.
At work, years later, colleagues around the kettle would ask, ‘Did you watch Bake Off last night?’. They don’t anymore.
While the bakers are as brilliant as ever, it feels like the show has lost its identity and what really made it special.
Bake Off used to feel like a warm hug from a friend. Now it just feels like an awkward interaction with a stranger.
As if trying to hold on to what I’ve lost, I have watched every episode this series – and I still couldn’t have told you it was the final this week.
That’s probably because, unlike in previous years, I haven’t been able to give it my full attention. While the Mel and Sue/Paul and Mary days – and even early Noel and Sandi (I miss her)/Paul and Prue times – would keep me gripped when the bakers were off screen, that’s no longer the case.
I’ve gone from watching the show live on my TV at home to on All 4 a couple of days later while cooking, tidying, or most damningly, when trying to fall asleep.
Where are the baking history segments (from speaking to my friends I seem to be the only one who misses these)? Where are the hugs from presenters? Where is a scandal as big Custardgate or Bingate? Where are the actual bakes that look like we amateurs (it is supposed to be an amateur baking show, after all) could attempt at home?
I often tell friends that if Nadiya Hussain made her finale cake – which bless her, was slightly askew – now, she’d be sent home in week 1.
I mean one of the technicals this series literally had one instruction: ‘Make a lemon meringue pie’.
The bakes are inaccessible. Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas seem more concerned with being ‘funny’ and less like the mates-to-the-bakers that Mel, Sue and Sandi were.
I don’t know about you, but I’m bored of Noel Fielding doing the same shtick. For someone who’s supposed to be kooky and unpredictable, I feel like I know what he’s about to say whenever he opens his mouth. The same goes for Matt Lucas.
Don’t even get me started on Mexican Week. It’s as if Matt Lucas has completely forgotten that he’s in hot water for previously taking the piss out of minorities and different cultures.
Or that Noel and Matt had fans slam their mock German accents in front of Jurgen last year.
Paul Hollywood has stayed consistent since the good old days, but he needed Mary, Mel and Sue to be the heart. There’s no heart anymore. It feels as if all the people paid to be there have become desensitised to their jobs. They forget that if a TV show could be the nation’s sweetheart, this would be it.
It means we have feedback from the two judges like, ‘It’s a pity because we did ask for a beautifully decorated tart’, ‘Could we think of something nice to say?’, or ‘[we expect] nothing but perfection’. It’s unnecessarily harsh.
If we wanted to see contestants treated like high level chefs, we’d watch Bake Off The Professionals.
The one silver lining and thing that keeps me watching is the bakers. The people having to do all the hard work for free (well, an allowance to cover ingredients).
Yes, they might be more talented than any amateurs I know, but Channel 4 always nails the casting. This year is no exception.
Compost Carole, Maxy, Sandro (Paul better give him a bloody handshake), Syabira and sweet angel Janusz (and all of this year’s other bakers) have been the only thing keeping me coming back week after week.
In my opinion, Bake Off needs to go back to its roots a bit more.
In all honesty, it could learn a lot from other shows following in its footsteps. Programs like All that Glitters, fronted by Katherine Ryan, Shaune Leane and Dinny Hall. Ryan mixes edgy comedy, more traditional jokes, and being there for contestants as they stress perfectly.
In Glow Up, Val Garland, Dominic Skinner and Maya Jama come across as if they really care about all the aspiring make up artists, and getting a ‘ding dong’ from Val would mean more to me than a Hollywood Handshake.
If Bake Off is going to keep me – and plenty of other fans – watching, we need to see change.
Keep the bakers. Make the bakes easier. More twee and less edgy.
Please, I miss my Tuesday evening hugs.
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