TV I’m Watching: Great British Bake-Off

By Shamus
on Sep 10, 2017
Filed under:
Television

A few weeks ago someone asked if I was watching any TV. At the time I said I was watching one show. It turns out this is not remotely true.

I lost interest in television back in 2001 or so. I was sick of the commercials and not interested in planning my entertainment around TV schedules. Besides, TV was expensive and the internet was way more interesting. So we canceled our cable service and that was the last I saw of television for the next decade and a half.

But now? Now “television” is on-demand streaming. Our family subscribes to several streaming services: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Drama Fever, Crunchyroll, and Netflix. Combined, they cost us about what cable TV cost back in 2001. The difference is now we don’t have to put up with commercialsActually Hulu has some commercials and schedule annoyances. I’m not sure anyone still watches it. We should probably cancel it., we can watch when we want, and the overall quality of the content is quite a bit better.

Which means TV (assuming we can still sloppily refer to streaming shows as “TV”) is really different now. In the old days if I said “I watch the A-Team” it meant I had my ass in front of the TV on Tuesday nights. Now if I tell you I watch some particular show, it means I binge through a dozen hours of it once a year. That’s still really strange to me. Like, that’s breaking a 70 year old tradition. To me, the change in viewing habits seems stranger to me than the new methods of delivery. When I was a kid I might have predicted a world of bigger screens, flatter displays, sharper images, better production values, and a shift in cultural standards regarding violence, language, and nudity. But the entire idea of “timeslots”? I figured that concept was as timeless as book binding. That’s just how you deliver that sort of content.

But here we are. Timeslots are dead. That’s pretty cool.

There is one show I’m watching “now” in the sense that I’m actually watching it recently, as opposed to “I’ll binge on it when the next season drops”. The Great British Bake Off.

The Great British Bake Off

The judges. Left: Paul Hollywood. (Yes really.) Right: Mary Berry. (Yes also really.)

The judges. Left: Paul Hollywood. (Yes really.) Right: Mary Berry. (Yes also really.)

In America it’s broadcast under the name “The Great British Baking Show” because the numbskulls at Pillsbury own a trademark on the term “Bake-Off” in the US. I’m not sure why they feel the need to own a common English phrase, but if I start ranting about that we’ll be here all friggin’ day so let’s just move on.

Where was I? Right. GBBO. Love the show. When I think of “Reality Television” in America I think of people being confrontational, gossipy, nasty, selfish assholes, being goaded on by producers, and then having all of that behavior magnified through editing. I don’t get the appeal of this sort of thing and I don’t ever want to watch it. (Yes, I’m aware the British have their rude shows, but going by reputation I think the US is the winner in this particular race to the bottom.)

But GBBO is not an American style reality show and in a lot of ways it’s almost the opposite. It’s a show about 12 generally likable people as they try to do the best baking they can. They’re friends more than rivals and the tension comes from the challenge of applying their skill rather than interpersonal drama manufactured through editing.

The setup is simple: At the start of a seasonThe British call it a “series”, which is actually a better fit nomenclature-wise. you’ve got 12 bakers. Each week they’re given three different baking challenges. At the end, the judges select the worst performing one to go home. The cast shrinks as the season goes, which means we really get to know the last few. By the end it’s usually a contest between a small handful of really talented and likable people.

It’s kind of amazing how good the show is at coming up with interesting challenges. I mean, how many things are there to bake? Cakes, pies, cookies? Wouldn’t that get old after two weeks? But no. Every week they have a new thing to focus on and a new trick to test the baking skills of the contestants.

I’m not even into baking. I know nothing about kitchen wizardry and I can barely operate a microwave without killing myself. But the friendly tone and endless creativity are really charming. I basically can’t get enough of the show and I’m going to be very sad when I run out of archives to binge through.

If you think you might be interested then you might want to steer clear of the comments. Given the elimination-style drama of the show, I anticipate the discussion will be a bit spoiler-ish. (And please don’t spoil season 4 or later, since that’s where I am.)

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Actually Hulu has some commercials and schedule annoyances. I’m not sure anyone still watches it. We should probably cancel it.

[2] The British call it a “series”, which is actually a better fit nomenclature-wise.


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From the Archives:

  1. sheer_falacy says:

    I don’t watch this one but there are definitely American reality shows out there that skip the “confrontational, gossipy, nasty, selfish assholes” requirement. One that I do watch is Face Off, which has about the same setup as this show sounds like it has, but for movie makeup instead of baking, and generally one challenge per show since they take longer to make. It’s pretty impressive.

    Kind of nice to have reality shows where people show actual real skills.

    • Josef says:

      There is also The Great Pottery Throw Down.

      • Lazlo says:

        I’d also throw into the category of “non-toxic reality TV” two I watch reasonably regularly, “Alone” and “Forged in Fire”. There are probably many others, both American and otherwise, but it seems to me that in a rare example of smart TV execs, someone figured out that there are people who *really love* intense interpersonal drama, and that’s fine, but that there are also people who absolutely can’t stand it, yet would still like to see cool people doing cool stuff.

        • Angie says:

          +1 for Forged in Fire. My husband and I’ve been watching it for a few months, and like it a lot. The concept is very cool, and the contestants definitely behave like human beings. It’s pretty rare when I’m rooting against someone just because they behave like a douchebag, which is unfortunately the case pretty often on a lot of the competition shows.

          And watching a bunch of people banging metal into blades is way cool. :)

          Angie

      • Phill says:

        She the Great British Sewing Bee, for those who like their needlework

      • I really enjoyed Pottery Throw-Down and Sewing Bee – it’s just really nice to watch people do stuff that takes some skill. Not sure if there’s going to be more Sewing Bee, though. :(

        I’m currently watching the newest series of GBBO after the move to Channel Four. So far it’s keeping a lot the same – including the interactions of the non-judging hosts – which I’m actually finding a lil weird. They’re pretending to be Mel and Sue but they’re not Mel and Sue? Whut? I think I’d like it more if/when they find their own dynamic.

    • Thomas says:

      I’ve heard good things about Face Off. Keep mixing it up with Nicholas Cage film though.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      I used to like So You Think You Can Dance for this. The early weeks of a season would get into some of the American Idol-esque cruel mockery of the obviously untalented, but once they weeded them out and found the actual competitors, you had a show about some talented young people, hungry for success, forced to learn skillsets adjacent to but different from their existing ones, being judged and appraised honestly by veteran professionals. It was all pretty collegial and collegiate.

      • PinkCoder says:

        ++ for So You Think You Can Dance. After the initial try-outs and everyone goes to the Academy to start the real competition, it is very low-drama. Even on the rare occasion when a judge has something critical to say, they do it in the most encouraging way.

        There have been some really amazing dancers over the years and I enjoy seeing the competitors get better as the weeks progress.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Now, what I have for you is a nice goat-cheese and hierloom tomato frittata. And we’re gonna top that with a little crème fraîche.”

  3. Preciousgollum says:

    Perhaps one might also enjoy a particular Animated work from the isle of Nippon (Japan) about cooking:

    RESTAURANT TO ANOTHER WORLD.

    Niceness is one of its main ingredients.

  4. timmie says:

    It should be noted that part of what makes the show so much less exploitative is that Sue and Mel make sure that anytime a contestant starts to have a complete meltdown, they make sure to swear like sailors on camera so the editors can’t use that footage in the final show (yes, you occasionally see little cry’s but that’s it). It’s a really nice touch that gives them some control of the final edit.

    • Phill says:

      Mel and Sue have a long standing ability to make anything they are in pretty awesome. Saw Sue’s live show recently too…

    • Alan says:

      I gather they let Sue and Mel go, which is frustrating, as they were the heart of the show.

      • MrPyro says:

        Short version: they haven’t been let go, they’ve quit due to the production company.

        Longer version: in the UK, a lot of TV shows are made by production companies, which then sell the transmission rights to a TV channel (generally this is all negotiated before filming begins, as the channel might be able to help with things like hiring the talent).

        The company that owns Bake Off was in contract with the BBC for years, but recently decided that they could get more money by shopping around, and have settled with Channel 4 (original naming there).

        However, Mel, Sue and Mary Berry are long term BBC people, so have decided that they don’t want to work for the show if it’s going to be on Channel 4.

        • Droid says:

          Compare and contrast: “Das Erste” (The First One), “ZDF” (Second German Television), “Canale 5” (Channel 5), “Rete 4” (Network 4), “Italia 1” (yes, that one’s literally “Italy 1”) a LOT of reagional channels just called “[region] Broadcast”, etc.

          I guess don’t let engineers name your stuff, ever?

          • Echo Tango says:

            It’s just as bad as naming a channel something like “Fox” or “Spike”. What do those even do? Am I supposed to memorize what each channel chooses to focus on? Now something like “The History Channel” or “Much Music” is actually descriptive. :)

          • Agammamon says:

            Its less ‘don’t let engineers name things’ and more ‘we’re the state telecom. We don’t care, we don’t have to’.

            • Munkki says:

              You say that, but until very recently the major (i.e. not including pay-TV) privately-owned commercial television channels in Australia were named ‘Channel 7’, ‘Channel 9’, and ‘Channel 10’. They’re named after the old positions on the standard for television broadcasting that their signals used to be tuned to.

              These channels were also labelled on whatever your TV used to switch between the frequency blocks (our old TV had a big clunky dial) and referenced in most ‘tune in next week’ messages, which is probably why the names stuck (and why the government-run ‘Australian Broadcasting Corporation’, a source of endless confusion to Australians hearing people discuss US-based TV networks, was affectionately known as ‘Channel 2’ for many years.)

              I’d guess there were similar standards agreed upon in other PAL regions (or possibly the channels were part of the PAL standard? I really should have read up on this more) and that’s where the various numbered channels of Europe come from. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me.

              • Bubble181 says:

                When a then-new commercial broadcaster started up here in Belgium about 10 years ago, they made a huge promo thing out of being labelled VT4 and asking people to put them on number 4 on their tv set.
                As in, they went around ringing at the door, and anyone they found where it was on 4 got shiny new big flatscreen (fance back then) tv set.
                There were 2 state run networks, and 2 other commercial networks at the time – muscling in on number 4 was kind of a big thing, because a lot of people also had the Dutch national tv stations programmed, meaning there were 9 presets already occupied. Ending up on number 10 or 11 pretty much means a lot of people would forget about you.

          • Rick C says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar81HTRL68I&t=140

            “You don’t get to name anything…EVER.”

        • Alan says:

          Wow, they lost Mel, Sue, and Mary? I like Paul and all, but he shined in part because the other three balanced him out and kept things more friendly. The production company really killed their golden goose, didn’t they?

  5. tmtvl says:

    Okay, I won’t spoil who dual wields spatulas to slay a gigantic cookie dragon.

  6. You should check out Forged in Fire if you haven’t already. Really cool Chopped-style blacksmithing competition.

    • Phill says:

      Love forged in fire, although I do wish it had a format more like the Bake-Off of keeping the same contestants for 10 weeks or so so got get a chance to know them and develop favourites.

      • Fade2Gray says:

        Yeah. I like Forged in Fire too, but I agree that it’d probably be better with an ongoing set of contestants. It’s a little hard to feel attached to anybody on the show when they’re all one-and-dones.

  7. Joshua says:

    “But the entire idea of “timeslots”? I figured that concept was as timeless as book binding. That’s just how you deliver that sort of content.”

    I disagree. I remember seeing the TV schedules in the 90s and seeing the premium movie and Pay Per View channels offering various movies on repeat at different timeslots throughout the week and thinking, “If you’re going to pay for it, there’s eventually got to be some way to transmitting the movie I want to watch *right now* to my TV.

  8. Alan says:

    For a non-asshole reality show, you might check out The Quest, which superficially is your standard random contests and elimination series, but with a fantasy LARP stapled on top. Apparently being asked to pretend that they’re working against some great evil is enough to change the tone. Sadly canceled, but along with the GBBO, the only reality shows I’ve really enjoyed.

    • Jordan Ryan says:

      It might have also helped that there was no cash prize for winning The Quest. Everyone was there for the experience of being a fantasy hero, so acting unheroic would be kind of self-defeating.

      • Jenx says:

        Perhaps relating to this, there was an old British show simply called Spy (which is very helpful, I am sure. Have a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spy_(2004_TV_series)). It got several regular people through a casting process, and they were then trained by two former (and one currently active) members of the intelligence community in various tradecraft skills – following people, getting access to locations you shouldn’t, being able to spot if you are being followed, creating and maintaining a false identity and so on.

        The elimination process wasn’t the usual “one per episode”, but the people who didn’t perform as well as everyone else got dropped. What was unusual there was that there was also absolutely no prizes to speak of. The only thing you get out of the whole thing is getting about a month’s worth of training into a very narrow and specialized field, of which few people ever get even a glimpse into.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      The Quest was fun but it got a little cringe-y at times. Not everyone was on board with playing in-character to the same degree so you had some really awkward interactions sometimes, especially between the actors and the players.

  9. Grampy_bone says:

    My girlfriend watches this. Making pies is serious business!

  10. Warclam says:

    Oh man, I love this show! I was visiting my mother recently, and we must have spent at 10% of our time watching recordings of it.

    It’s a real shame about what happened with the hostile takeover of it, and subsequent splitting of the cast.

    They’ve been doing spin-offs across the pond, too. There have been two seasons of the Great American Baking Show, which is Christmas-themed, and this fall they’re starting up the Great Canadian Baking Show.

  11. Droid says:

    “I know nothing about kitchen wizardry and I can barely operate a microwave without killing myself.”

    Oh, man, that happens to me constantly!

    And since you mention it: A season is called an “echelon” in German.

  12. Da Mage says:

    I’m always so happy that Australia has a free-to-air TV network. I can’t imagine paying actual money to watch what little TV I enjoy, most of it is just garbage.

    More relevant though, I’ve heard that Australian Masterchef does pretty well over in the US for much of the same reasons you mention here. They don’t overplay the fake ‘drama’ and even have whole episodes dedicated to just teaching the contestants (and viewers) how to cook things. It’s just way more chill, then the US reality TV I’ve seen.

    • Agammamon says:

      *Somebody’s* paying for it – either it has commercials and those guys are paying or it doesn’t and you’re paying through taxes.

      • Da Mage says:

        Commercials pay for it, but we don’t have any more than the US have on their paid channels. Hell, even the Australian paid channels (known as Foxtel) doesn’t have any less ads on it.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      We have what we call broadcast TV in the States too. Most people just don’t use it.

    • Mistwraithe says:

      Australian Masterchef is really good entertainment. For reasons I won’t go into our family have been having dinner sitting around the TV for the last 9 months (not our norm). During that time we’ve watched various TV programs but Australian Masterchef has been the best. Our young kids are equally into it and enjoy speculating about who will be eliminated next. The kids give out immunity pins when we serve them a particularly nice dinner and there are competitions to make the best deserts (often out of pretty basic ingredients like fruit salad, yoghurt, chocolate, etc). It has been a really nice source of family entertainment, something which is hard to come by these days.

      I’ve seen a couple of episodes of the GBBO but it seems rather flat and boring in comparison, with rather less interesting food/cooking. I don’t think it could capture the kids imaginations like MasterChef has.

  13. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    If you like this style of “nice people competing on pure skill” definitely have a look at Master Chef Australia. Most be the most gripping and positive thing I have seen on TV (well, Hulu since it doesn’t air around here) in years :-).

    • Chris Wolf says:

      If you want to catch new seasons of shows on ABC, NBC, and FOX the commercial free Hulu option is totally worth $4 more a month.

      I am just annoyed that they pulled the CW shows. I had my Flashes and such legal and ad free.

    • Mistwraithe says:

      I totally agree and have posted more of my thoughts about what awesome family entertainment it is above.

  14. rabs says:

    I enjoyed “Strip Search” by Penny Arcade. Drawing/art contest with games and challenges in between.
    There was a good atmosphere, and participants were also nice and talented people.
    Most of the drama was judging who would leave, sometimes it’s really hard and hearth breaking to decide.

    • Nick says:

      I was just going to post about this! I don’t consume reality TV content but I was willing to follow LRR into an interesting premise, and I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t really go down that template

      • Khazidhea says:

        I was also going to mention StripSearch! Instead I’ll recommend the Genius, a South Korean game/reality TV show. It might just be due to cultural differences, but it seems much nicer than other reality tv shows I can think of (I remember an episode where one player was screwed over due to him being careless, and someone playing a prank on him, and everyone felt really bad about it and went out of their way to apologise).

    • Scott Schulz says:

      Yes: if you like GBBO, then you will probably like Strip Search as well. However, don’t tell Shamus about Terrace House, or we will never see him again since there are around eighty episodes on Netflix to catch up on.

  15. Primogenitor says:

    Whilst GBBO itself it not cut-throat, the production company is. When BBC refused to pay more money (£10m I think? something stupidly large for a television show with minimal production costs) they sold the format to Channel 4 (which is a commercial channel entirely (or mostly?) owned by the UK government – has adverts, but not entirely for-profit) but only Paul of main cast went with it – all the others stayed with the BBC.

    So now the BBC has its own competing show that is basically as close as possible without infringing copyright/patent/contract. Less people watched it on C4, but it was still much bigger audience than most C4 content (and it was critically well received) so they count it as a success.

    Also curious is that the C4 equivalent to Mary Berry is Prue Leigh – and both of then were competitors in the 60s/70s/80s when home-cooking dinner parties as local social pecking order tests started to be a thing.

  16. Primogenitor says:

    Do you get to watch the Extra Slice and other auxiliary content? That was/is a secondary show – sort of like televised fan mass-watching/party thing; kind of hard to describe if you’ve never seen anything similar. I’m curious if that is also re-distributed too.

    • Shamus says:

      There’s a show where Paul and Mary bake the stuff you see on the show, like the stuff you see before the technical challenge. That series is called “Great British Baking Show – Masterclass”. Not sure if that’s the same thing you’re talking about.

      • Ralph Sleigh says:

        Not quite

        The Extra Slice is a light hearted panel show where they get a comedian to host the person who left that week, an actual baker and normally another TV personality to discuss how the episode went, and get the leavers opinion on the other contestants, etc.

        Not seen the new channel 4 version this year, maybe they have tweaked it.

  17. I highly recommend the british versions (originals?) of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Nightmares, and possibly “the F word”.
    He still swears a lot but there’s no bleeping, the music is less annoying/overly dramatic, and the camera/editing is more relaxed. It doesn’t feel like the camera man is on drugs.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      So bearing in mind my experiene is somewhat 2nd hand and the bits I’ve seen might have been cherry picked to prove this exact point I am led to believe the US version of Kitchen Nightmares cranked the drama waaaaaay up.

  18. Steve C says:

    There is a tiny intersection in the Venn Diagram of CGP Grey and Brady and The Great British Bake Off. The GBBO drama starts at 28m51s.

  19. Llewellyn the Last says:

    I’d actually say the series vs. season thing actually makes talking about TV far more difficult than it ought to be in this country. You have to specify whether you’re talking about the series as a whole, or a particular series of that series, say, the latest series, or perhaps series 2 of the original series of Battlestar Galactica as opposed to the new Battlestar Galactica series series series series

    And even once you’ve explained yourself everyone’s still confused.

    • Matt Downie says:

      There are lots of way to avoid saying “series” when talking about the complete run of a show. “Series 2 of the original Battlestar Galactica.” (Or “Season 2 of the original Battlestar Galactica,” since most British people are familiar with the American parlance.)

    • `Retsam says:

      Yeah, I think North America has the right of this one. Maybe it’s just my American bias, but it’s weird to me that a “series of books” is the whole story, but a “series of television” is just one part of it.

      While “season” carries the meaning of a slice out of a greater whole (“season of the year”, “season of a life”), which is exactly what a season of television is. (Unless it gets cancelled after a single season.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Id agree with this if not for the fact that american shows have this stupid tendency to have a mid season split,sometimes lasting a few months.So instead of having a summer season of a show,and then a winter season of it,we have summer half of the season,then the winter half,even though the number of episodes in each half is the same,and the time passed between two seasons is the same as the time passed between the end of one season and the beginning of the next one.

        • Fade2Gray says:

          Man. I remember when Syfy (I think they were still SciFi back then) started getting really bad with that. Back when BSG was hot, the mid season breaks were getting so long for most of their shows that the first half of the season would already be on store shelves in a box sets before the second half aired. And just to twist the knife, the mid season would always end with some massive cliffhanger.

          I sometimes feel a bit of nostalgia for the SciFi channel (I stopped watching years ago), but then I remember that nonsense and it immediately evaporates in the blazing heat of long held resentment.

        • `Retsam says:

          I’m not sure how that really relates to the “series” vs “season”. It’s weird to have as big a gap between two halves of the same “season” as between two different “seasons”, but then it’d also be weird to have as big a gap between two halves of the same “series” as between two different “series”.

          It’s a bit of a weird (and somewhat frustrating) practice, but it doesn’t really change the nomenclature any.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      Wow. I always assumed that Brits had another word for what we call a series in America. That really is confusing.

      • Phill says:

        In the UK, you’re probably more likely to use “programme” where Americans use “series”, but “series” can be used equally well. Generally there is no confusion because of context.

  20. Daimbert says:

    I’ve had some similar experiences to you in different ways.

    I canceled my cable a while ago because I noticed that I was watching DVDs more than watching cable. So I would sit down and watch a series for however long it would take to get through it. I managed to get through the entire 1200 episodes of the original Dark Shadows soap opera, as after seeing the movie I read up on the series and found it to be so much better. I stayed off of cable for about 4 years and returned to it for sports … which is pretty much all I watch on it now (and that’s mostly baseball and curling) … and I’m back to DVDs. Streaming doesn’t work for me for that reason, even if I had Internet capable things hooked up to it in my living room.

    As for less competitive shows, I was watching “Over the Rainbow” a few years back, a Canadian show where they were competing to win the lead roll in a new production of “The Wizard of Oz”. I also sometimes caught “America’s Top Model” because it came on before it. The difference was like light and day. The models in “America’s Top Model” were backstabbing and back-biting each other, and complaining if they were listed lower than the others and about who went home or didn’t instead of them, while on “Over the Rainbow” the participants seemed to genuinely feel bad when someone went home (and not “Yay! Less competition!”) and seemed to be genuinely happy for the person who won, if a bit disappointed themselves. So a lot of that might be cultural as well.

  21. Grimwear says:

    The show reminds me a lot of Halloween Wars. Only each season is only 4 episodes and you have 5 teams competing making these giant “edible” set pieces that are Halloween themed. Some of the craftsmanship involved is just staggering and each team has a pumpkin carver, a cake decorator, and a candy maker. I recommend it if you can ever find it. I was lucky in that I found some torrents.

  22. Hector says:

    Shamus, there’s something important that you need to know…

    THIS IS NO ORDINARY STORM!

  23. Erik says:

    Interestingly (to me, at least), Pillsbury owns the copyright to the term “Bake-off” because it invented the word.

    The Pillsbury Bake-off contest series was started in 1949, and I can’t find any citation of a prior use (through a cursory search, at least) and several cites of the Pillsbury Bake-off as the origin. There were, of course, words like playoff in existence for the prior 50 years or so, but bake-off appears to be an original word invented for the Pillsbury contest.

    I had no idea that I’d find this; I expected it to be the usual language grab by a corporation. But this would have been shortly after the Linoleum company lost the trademark on their eponymous product, and every company was starting to protect their brand names in response.

  24. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Hulu, they have a no-commercials option for $12/month. Unfortunately, they don’t really advertise it that well, so a lot of people don’t know it exists.

  25. Olivier FAURE says:

    I mean, how many things are there to bake? Cakes, pies, cookies?

    You’ve never been in France, have you?

    Also, yeah, cooking shows are cool. The closest equivalent to GBBO I’ve seen in France was Masterchef, which is more or less the same thing, on a bigger scale.

    At first there are huge country-wide selections, which lead to a first “round” with around 100 contestants (they cook in a warehouse). They do team challenges and stuff, and select them down until there’s few enough of them to fit in a reality-TV house, at which point the show’s focus moves from teams to individuals. Also they cook all sort of stuff, not just pastries. But the general principle is the same.

  26. MerryVulture says:

    Love that show. I am waiting for more series to be available on my preferred set up. (My wife finds it on what ever she is scrolling through. I can barely type anymore, let alone control a TV.)
    The lack of back biting and forced drama is really the reason to.

  27. SAJ14SAJ says:

    I do cook and bake, and I really enjoy the seasons/series of the GBBO that are available here. The skill the contestants have is typically pretty amazing, although the time limit and quantities are pretty much designed to force errors. And darn some of the things they ask to bake are very obscure!

    I love that there is no drama, pretty much, other than the drama inherent in the baking.

    I don’t need to know that the participants are inspired by the memory of their recently deceased ferret, or are looking for the love of their babysitter who never respected their choice of career, or whatever, as is so common in US cooking shows. I am looking at you, Chopped.

  28. Bubble181 says:

    As for time slots being dead… I mean, not quite.
    On the one hand, there’s a lot of content that’s by nature time sensitive , or made to be to help advertisers. Sports matches, things like The Voice/Idol/etc live shows with voting, that sort of thing. I still watch those later, but they still get a pretty big live audience. Water cooler talk about last week’s Superstar Competition Show or Sportsball Championship hasn’t evaporated.

    On the other hand, there’s shows like Game of Thrones, which release one episode a week or small bits at a time (Err, I think Steven Universe?). If you want to watch such things spoiler free, and/or if you’re a Real Fan ™, you watch those the evening they come out. Not an exact time slot, but still a way to avoid everyone bingeing them over a weekend. Helps you keep the conversation and word-of-mouth going for a longer time.

  29. Shen says:

    Well seeing how everyone else is throwing around recommendations;
    Lego Masters has been GBBO but somehow EVEN DORKIER and I’ve greatly enjoyed it. There’s only been about 4-5 episodes thus far and it wraps up this week and it’s still clearly trying to find its feet, but I hope we see it again.

  30. Chris Wolf says:

    One question:

    What streaming services is this thing on? My wife might really enjoy it.

  31. idhrendur says:

    My wife loves this show, but is disappointed more series haven’t made it onto Netflix. It’s even inspired her and some other friends in some baking, so I win too!

    And from watching over her shoulder occasionally, I agree that the tone is just so much better than the typical American reality show. It’s nice.

    • MrPyro says:

      It’s worth noting that the UK does have its share of crappy reality shows: X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent for the “competition with extra backbiting” style, and The Only Way is Essex and a bunch of other clones for the “slice of life of random people who are famous because they’re on a TV show” type. I think part of the reason that GBBO did so well is because it inverted the normal competition formula by making it so… amicable.

  32. Angie says:

    If you like watching competitors being cool and nice and helping each other, Masterchef Junior is that in spades. The kids are awesome, seem to really like each other, and can cook and bake way better than me. :)

    Angie

    • spelley says:

      Agreed. Basically, the kid version is basically just the adult version without all the fake angry tension added on top, plus the fact that kids who would get into *baking* tend not to be giant asshole monsters. The worst you get is a whiny kid or a bragger kid and…that’s basically just what kids do.

  33. Jabrwock says:

    If you’re looking for other reality competition shows that don’t focus on the interpersonal bitching, I recommend “Canada’s Worst Handyman”. They don’t kick someone off each week, instead the top person of the week leads the group project the next week, and the worst gets homework of whatever it was they needed help with.

    The biggest conflict in the show is when there’s a “nominator” who is an ass who feels that constant criticism is the way to get their “nominee” to quit trying. There’s been a few times when the show “judges” will actually pull the nominator out of the room and help the contestant directly to give them the confidence to do the work.

    Goal is to make people who are absolutely terrible at construction either admit they are hopeless (and hopefully get someone else to do the work or at least give them a hand) or genuinely get better at building things safely.

  34. Zak McKracken says:

    Here’s a nice comment on the series:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76G9ooIxxPg

    slight politics trigger warning( but it’s only British politics).
    (actually, it’s not really a comment on Bake-Off and mostly politics … but still not US politics )
    (and I’m not British, so I’ll claim ignorance)
    (so should this catch fire, feel free to delete)

    …but I love the guy’s style.

  35. Amarsir says:

    To appreciate what Bake Off does right, look at the attempt to Americanize it in 2013. The host was Jeff Foxworthy. And if you’re wary about that, let me say that he was probably the best part. What was wrong was a massive focus on a $100,000 prize. And casting a villain who then got a sort-of redemption arc. And judges who were more interested in cultivating a celebrity image than simply doing their job. And cramming it all into a short period of time with no practice runs.

    The more recent reboot to The Great American Baking Show was much better. And Bake Off has changed channels in the UK but looks to be well in form at it’s new home. (Even with 2 new hosts and 1 new judge.)

    • Now I’m curious! (And YT won’t let me watch the ep I found ‘cos of stupid BBC Worldwide blocking it for UK viewers, where’s a proxy IP when I need one?) GBBO winners don’t win any money, afaik – they just get a trophy cake plate and bragging rights. Many winners do seem to have gone on to ride their success to careers in baking and/or cookery, though, and even the also-rans have benefited from a bit of that too, if they’ve a mind to, so that’s probably a fairly big incentive without needing to chuck in Fabulous Cash Prizes(TM) as well. I’m utterly nonplussed by the notion of casting a “villain” – were they worried there wasn’t going to be enough drama or viewers unless they did that? Weird. Sounds like they were doing the usual Reality TV thing of picking people for emotional fireworks instead of likability and talent.

  36. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Soo my reality TV guilty pleasure is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m very much a “stay at home nerd gay” so it’s an aspect of broadly understood “gay culture” that I don’t really have contact with. I love the artistry that goes into the transformations, I love the creativity and humour that features into a lot of the challenges. But boy do they push for conflict and drama, I end up skipping parts of the episodes where they lay that on too thick.

  37. CliveHowlitzer says:

    I really noticed the American approach to reality shows when I watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The UK version is a lot of fun to watch, with a good focus on the restaurant itself and overcoming the issues it is having. Sure it has a bunch of Gordon’s swearing and some confrontations, but its mostly focused on what the show is meant to be about.

    Then I get to the American version hoping for more and it is all confrontations, dramatic music, all played up to the extreme. I did not get the appeal at all and gave up on it very quickly. I think its the dramatic music that really gets me.

    • Droid says:

      *dramatic music plays* Will CliveHowitzer get to terms with American TV shows, or will he tutor his nephew to take up arms against the industry and overthrow it to take bloody revenge? Find out next week!

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