A Show Stopping Start for Bake Off | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

A Show Stopping Start for Bake Off

After a contentious channel move, TV Critic Rebecca Cutler reviews Channel 4's Great British Bake Off

If anything came close to breaking my heart in 2016, it was undeniably the slim majority of the victorious Leave campaign. This was not aided in the following weeks and months as The Great British Bake Off derailing in a seemingly comparable manner. With hosts Mel Gideroyc and Sue Perkins and judge Mary Berry staying loyal to the BBC, thus removing themselves as the faces that made the show famous, there remained a single set of piercing blue eyes in which the (weakened) pound signs could roll. Paul Hollywood, in a time when jumping ship was the nation's activity of choice, bravely stayed on board.

The important thing to remember with Bake Off is that both the BBC and Channel 4 are merely the platform from which they are viewed. It has always been, and still is, produced by Love Productions. Armed with this information, it would be foolish to expect Dramatic Changes to have occurred in 'new' Bake Off. Even to call it new seems unnecessary - Bake Off has simply moved into a new house. A new house in a slightly cooler area, with noisy neighbours and fewer law enforcement officials. Without the guiding presence of Mary Berry, things could go downhill very easily.

Bake Off has simply moved into a new house - one in a slightly cooler area, with noisy neighbours and fewer law enforcement officials
The new kids on the block should be glaringly, obviously different to the faces we are familiar with. However, by casting a quirky lesbian and a not-quite-as-funny-as-they-should-be comedian, Bake Off has eased the transition somewhat. Whilst both Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding appeared to be bold choices as the new hosts, they blend into the format effortlessly. Toksvig is the calm, comforting figure, in place to counteract Fielding's more explicit unusuality. They are a positive presence within the hallowed tent, interacting with both the judges and the bakers without proving a nuisance to either, unlike their predecessors.  The steely, firm but fair judgement of Prue Leith has superseded Hollywood, who now delivers several of his once-special handshakes per episode in an effort to stay both relevant and revered.  Her subtle interjections shame Hollywood into being a better judge, a better baker, and a better part of the show. If he wants the money, Prue Leith is going to make him work for it.

Prue Leith has superseded Hollywood... Her subtle interjections shame Hollywood into being a better judge, a better baker, and a better part of the show

The Great British Bake Off is also attracting a higher level of baking talent; whilst each baker certainly has less successful rounds, they have all being displaying a high level of talent since the earliest stages of the competition. This improvement has been necessary to keep up with the increasing difficulty of each of the rounds. The technical challenges are increasingly obscure and testing for the bakers, forcing them to prove their worth. The introduction of Caramel Week harnessed the bakers' skill sets, forcing them to demonstrate skill beyond the combination of eggs and flour. The diversity of the current series' contestants is also more natural. Where the BBC presented a wide range of contestants, it frequently used the social/cultural/racial identities of contestants as a way of differentiating between them. On Channel 4, which has championed diversity and difference louder and for much longer, this is no longer used as a crutch.

Nothing that should hinder The Great British Bake Off during its first series on Channel 4 is proving to be catastrophic. Even the introduction of advertisements, and the consequential extension of the programme's length to a run-time of over an hour can only be a good thing - a time to make a drink or visit the bathroom is a much needed way to diffuse the tension of a difficult or delicate Showstopper Challenge. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, The Bake Off on Channel 4 takes the best of what made it brilliant on the BBC (and also Paul Hollywood), and changes it just enough to bring new life to the old format.


English finalist and biscuit enthusiast. (@hi_its_rebz)


12th October 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Channel 4