Summer’s over. Sorry. The start of The Great British Bake Off signifies that autumn is on its way. It will soon be followed by Strictly, X Factor and The Apprentice, and then it will be Christmas. Yeah, depressing or what? But hey at least that we have 12 innuendo packed weeks as the Bake Offteam beat, bake and balls up cakes, biscuits and pies. The programme is a bit of an anomaly. Basically it’s your school Home Economics lesson, but on the telly. (Rumour has it they are working on a metalwork version for next year…oh hold on that was what Scrapheap Challenge was wasn’t it?) A lot of its success was down to timing. Bake Off owes a debt of gratitude to the banking collapse.
Research shoes that during a recession certain things flourish; bookies, nail bars and baking. The country adopts a “make do and mend” attitude and while baking may seem twee, it’s cheap, is something to do, and at the end of it you end up with something you can eat. When the programme hit our screens in 2010 it was the right programme at the right time. From humble beginnings it has gone onto to become a phenomenon.
12 new contestants entered the tent aiming to nab the coveted title of Star Baker and go onto win the series and receive…a cakes stand (and you thought the glass vase thing they got for winning Mastermind was unimpressive). Six series on, I still haven’t full worked out why they are in a tent. Perhaps in its original thrifty days it was a cost thing; perhaps it harks back to the idea of cake and produce shows at village fetes; perhaps Paul Hollywood has a cousin in the marquee business. The contestants, like all reality shows, are cast by type. So we have to have the student; the old northern granny; the engineering one; the overly ambitious one; the Welsh one; the old bloke who will do something bonkers etc. The stand out loon from episode one was Val who does aerobics whilst baking and listens to her cakes, which “tell her when they are ready.” She will be out by week 3, but has a promising career on CBeebies or as a cook on This Morning plus a Bake-aerobics video ready for the New Year.
Again, like all reality TV shows, the judges are just as important as the contestants and cakes. In Mary and Paul we have the golden couple; Mary looking like your favourite granny, who definitely has an account at Joules and is a lady who lunches, and Paul looking like her psychotic nephew who hasn’t quite grown out of the dressing totally in black stage. They both have piercing pale eyes which with a single look can destroy the confidence of the contestants. Then there are the impish grand children in the form of Mel and Sue whose sole task is to stick innuendo in left right and centre (phnarr, phnarr).
The technical challenge this week was Jaffa Cake. I assume we can blame this trend for doing massive versions biscuits on Costa. I guess next week they will have to replicate the giant bourbon or teacake. Still it was staggering just how many of them had never made, eaten or it even seen a Jaffa Cake. (Do they not remember this brilliant advert from the 90’s?)
The show stopper resulted in more false starts than the cycling in Rio. Three of the contestants started their sponges again, one of them even throwing her first attempt across the room like a Frisbee. (It bounced off the tent wall. Paul Hollywood’s cousin only supplies quality marquees). There were tears, and of course there were looks. Just as Mr Selfridge uses “the look” to convey a thousand words (don’t believe me, watch this), Bake Off does the same. There is the “Very nice, but where is the mirror effect?” look from Paul; the “Do you know who I am?” look from Mary; and the “I’m doooomed” look from the contestants as they see each other’s handiwork.
The first person to leave and be the recipient of “the Mel and Sue sandwich” (ooooh, errr, missus) was Lee, the minister from Bolton. One down, eleven to go. I suppose I better think about starting my Christmas shopping. Are baking trays a suitable present?