Deputy Editor Kat Smith questions whether the eighth series of The Great British Bake Off still has the key ingredients to be a success
The end of August, for the most part, connotates a jolt back to reality. But it also signals the return of the nation’s best-loved baking competition. It hardly needs an introduction, but The Great British Bake Off is officially back for its eight series.
But much to my disappointment, Bake Off didn’t return with a bang but rather a muffled flop. This materialised in the form of a stale introduction, with presenters Noel Fielding and Sandy Toksvig performing an awkward Back to the Future skit to poke fun at Prue’s Twitter blunder last year. It ended abruptly, transitioning not-so-seamlessly into the new contestants anticipating their time in the iconic tent. The cringe-worthy beginning to the episode made me miss Mel and Sue more than ever.
I had conflicted feelings throughout the episode. Whilst I love Fielding and his bottomless collection of eclectic shirts, his duo act with Toksvig feels like a poor imitation of their popular predecessors. His unique humour and charm peeks through occasionally, but it feels largely stifled by monotone voice-overs and restrictive scripts. Perhaps my issue is that the journey from the show’s original home, BBC One, to Channel 4 has been a little too fluid, to the point that they seem to be forgetting Mel, Sue and Mary ever stepped foot in the tent. It feels as though they are acting as if Mel grew angular sideburns and Mary obtained a collection of absurd necklaces. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time, but I’m waiting to see the personalities of our newbies shine a little more.
Nonetheless, the 2018 contestants are as delightful as ever. French star-baker Manon is delightful, Rahul is the definition of wholesome and Karen stopping for a snack break during the first challenge is far too relatable. The diversity in this year’s line-up, with contestants from multiple backgrounds and heritages, represents Britain perfectly. I could see strong characters emerging from their first conversations with the camera, but none capable of something as treacherous as Baked Alaska-gate. Who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have another Nadiya this year.
Bake-Off has certainly maintained its unpretentious, feel-good vibe. Biscuit Week kicked off the series, with challenges asking the bakers to create biscuits that represented their heritage, classic wagon wheels in the technical and biscuit selfies in the showstopper finale. This is all part of the charm – you don’t need to know ridiculous baking terms to keep up and though it can get emotional, it all feels refreshingly unserious. Oh, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like cake?
With the promise of a ‘vegan week’, Bake Off continues to adapt to current trends for its viewers, something I must commend it for. Though its format is reliable and so far, largely unchanged, I’m eager to see what new challenges this series throws at the contestants.
I’m excited for what’s to come, even if I must warm up to the changing ‘cast’ once again. I hope Kim-Joy’s eyeshadow collection is as impressive as Candice’s lipsticks, I’m keen to hear more of Ruby’s sass and most of all, I’m looking forward to another few weeks of feel-good TV.