“Ready….steady…. change channels”. Hold on, that’s not right. “Bake”. That’s it. This week saw the return of The Great British Bake Off (or just Bake Off to its close personal friends, people who are too lazy to utter 3 more words and people who are uncomfortable with the imperialistic idea that Britain is somehow the best baking nation in the world). This shouldn’t be news. It is up to series 8 now so it’s fair to say that it’s a “returning series”. In fact, we reviewed the last series here, but this series is historic. It’s moved to Channel 4.
On the cuddly BBC it featured a dozen bakers of varying ages, ethnicity and baking ability; was judged by a cantankerous Scouse baker and a national treasure and was presented by a pair of comedians, one gay, one straight. But on Channel 4 it’s all change. Channel 4 has always had a radical agenda and so now this most beloved programme features a dozen bakers of varying ages, ethnicity and baking ability; is judged by a cantankerous Scouse baker and a national treasure and is presented by a pair of comedians, one gay, one straight. Shocking.
In all fairness, the controller of Channel 4, Jay Hunt, did say she wasn’t going to tamper with the format, which makes a lot of sense. When you have just spent 75 million on the most watched TV programme of 2016, saying “you know what, I think this show is missing something. With a few tweaks, it could really take off” is a sign of genius or madness. (It’s madness by the way. There are very few people who are geniuses and most of them find better things to do than running TV channels.) So, what are the changes?
Well, during last year’s furore over Bake Off being poached by Channel 4, the main headlines were that Mary Berry and Mel and Sue were leaving. That does mean that 3/4 of the regular presenting team has gone, but hey, presenters are replaceable; I mean Top Gear did alright after Clarkson, Hammond and May left, didn’t it? (The answer is no, it didn’t. Don’t believe me, read this.) So, Mary is now Prue Leith, Sue is Sandi Toksvig and Mel has been replaced by a really attractive goth girl…what…that’s a man…. but his hair is soooo good! Ok, it would appear Mel has been replaced by Noel Fielding. When the announcement was made, you did think that could go either way, so let’s see.
The other big change is that there are adverts. Saying that there are only 4 ad breaks and let’s be honest, we all fast forward through them anyway, so this is hardly a deal breaker. However, the Dr Oetker singing cake sponsorship bumpers are just plain creepy.
To herald the new show, the producers went to town and put the presenters in a hot air balloon to do their opening piece to camera. Not sure what the point of this was; possibly it was a subliminal reference to the Nimble advert of the 1970’s, but it immediately highlighted the problem the series is going to have with these two presenters. The height difference. Alas Sandi and Noel do look a bit like Hagrid and Harry. That aside, we had the same title music, the same incidental music and the same…well everything.
After 8 series of the show, the contestants follow a sort of “identikit” formula for casting:
- James= The middle aged balding one (Luis)
- Stacey= The competitive housewife (Nadyia, Frances, Beca)
- Liam= The student (Rav, Flora, Michael)
- Julia= The one with foreign accent (Chetna, Ugne)
- Sophie= The attractive one the camera lingers on (Candice, Ruby)
- Peter= The Christian one (Lee, Benjamina, Martha)
- Chris= The engineer (Andrew, Robert)
- Yan= The one who forgets to turn the cooker on and bins the cake (Florret, Ian, Marie, Andrew, Chetna)
- Flo= The Northern grandma (Val, Nancy)
- Tom= The Scottish one (Marie, Norman)
- Steven=The one who over complicates it (Ian, Richard)
- Kate = The Health and Safety Officer and blacksmith (ok. She is unique)
In episode one there was obviously a few quips about “all being new” and settling into their “new jobs” but essentially, it was the same. If anything, Paul was trying a bit too hard (I mean two Hollywood Handshakes in round one of episode one. You are just devaluing them Paul). So Channel 4’s £75 million pound gamble is off to a flying, if familiar start. But please lose the singing cake. I don’t think I can bear that for the next 10 weeks.