Channel 4's Bake Off - Great or godawful?
I don’t hand out praise lightly, so when I say that I adored the Great British Bake Off of old, I mean it. I loved how Mary’s eyes lit up whenever a bake had alcohol in it, how Paul’s handshake was as revered in the tent as an Oscar, the puns, the innuendo, and that ultimately it was a nice programme. The bakers didn’t see each other as contestants but as friends, and so Bake Off was a refreshing change from the X-Factor sob stories and bitter rivalries that pollute the TV guides of today.
But then Channel 4 ruined it. They stole the purest programme on TV, whilst Paul Hollywood became the biggest snake of 2016 by breaking up the gang that was Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue. In their place, Mel and Sue lookalikes Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, and Prue Leith.
Channel 4/Love West
So, going into tonight’s first episode of Bake Off away from the BBC, I was skeptical. Would it still work without Sue’s inability to say ‘bake’ in a normal fashion? How would the nation cope without Mary’s relentless enquiries into whether the bakes had within them a ‘soggy bottom’? Was new Bake Off going to go the way of Top Gear without Clarkson, Hammond and May?
Thankfully, I thought Channel 4’s first GBBO was good, if not a little bit strange. It’s like when you go back to the flat you lived in during first year, and find that everything looks the same, down to the mysterious stain on the desk in your room. But then, you realise that Shirley, the cleaner who gave you extra loo roll, is gone, and some strange person is in their place. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, the things that made Bake Off appointment-to-view TV were, generally, still there. The ridiculous showstoppers, the contestants whose bakes were a disaster, and the sweet old woman who you knew would flirt with Paul and eventually make it to the semi-finals. Until the end of the episode I don’t think I’d fully appreciated, somewhat ironically, how important the contestants and the cakes were to a baking competition, and nothing was different about this aspect of the show. By the end of the first hour and fifteen minutes I had decided who I liked and who I didn’t, predicting that this week’s Star Baker, Steven, will go onto win. However, my predictions are notoriously poor, and so inevitably he'll be packing his bags to go home after a disastrous time next week.
The things that had changed weren’t bad either! Sandi and Noel made a good double act, and nobly carried on the traditions of stealing food and delivering the line ’30 minutes left’ in as strange a way as possible. Noel did come across a bit too ‘normal’, with his calm and cool voiceovers frankly unsettling, but for now I’m happy to put that down to Week 1 nerves. Prue was okay too (but no-one will replace Mary Berry. Plus, having successfully avoided the temptation to watch live at 8pm, I glided through the adverts via the power of Sky+! At the end of the day, the GBBO’s format is simple, and try as Channel 4 and Love Productions might, hard to mess up.
All in all, I still enjoyed Bake Off. I don’t know if I enjoyed it as much as the last series on the BBC, but tonight’s first show still had me on the edge of my seat over something as silly as whether a contestant would have enough time to remake the cake that they’d just chucked in the bin!
I will continue to mourn the loss of Mary, Mel and Sue, but equally, I’ll still be tuning in next week…