Posted on Friday, July 30th, 2021 by
(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Series: The Great British Bake Off (AKA: The Great British Baking Show)
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: A group of amateur bakers spend 10 episodes dazzling us while trying to impress the judges and become the next national treasure of Britain.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Because everyone’s been saying for eternity that The Great British Bake Off will change your life. And they were right.
I’m screaming into the void here: most sensible people have already cracked and given this show the chance it deserves. Inevitably, they all got sucked into its loveliness and religiously watched the subsequent seasons for years to come.
But I’m stubborn, and when I hear too much about how wonderful something will be, I tend to shelf it. From the outside, Bake Off sounded too sickly-sweet to be fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good cooking competition. They’re my favorite form of comfort food (no pun intended) and, usually, all it takes is a single clip for me to give them a try (even when they have titles like, say, Crime Scene Kitchen and a needlessly elaborate premise to match).
I think I may have seen the middle of a Bake Off episode and thought it too devoid of tension and too kind to be entertaining. That’s all in the past, back when I was a cynical monster. Now I’m living a new truth as a changed person who’s two seasons into the show and finally knows better. So, if you still haven’t crossed over to the side of light, we literally have cookies…and custards, pies, cakes, and every other baked good you can imagine. Plus, everyone’s nice!
The Great British Bake-Off is exactly what it sounds like: a British baking competition. There’s not much more to it.
Each season sees a brand new set of bakers gathering in the Bake Off tent to endure judgment. As opposed to many other cooking competition shows, the bakers tackle three challenges in each episode. The first is a signature dish that they knew ahead of time and were able to prep for. That’s followed by a technical challenge, usually consisting of a recipe from the judges with very minimal direction, testing their technique under pressure. Last up is the showstopper which, as the title demands, should be a stunning show of taste and decorative skills.
And you might think oh, no, if they had time to prepare, they surely can’t mess up.
I assure you, that is not true. Many mistakes are made — some more drastic than others. (That poor baked Alaska…)
But the other thing about mistakes and meltdowns is you quickly find they don’t matter. They’re always excited when they happen, but you’re rarely rooting for the bakers to mess up. All you want is their success and, in fact, all anyone on the show wants is everyone’s success. That Bake Off tent fully encapsulates warmth; they’re all exceedingly polite, willing to help, and happy to cheer for others’ success.
There are so many details that contribute to this show’s wholesome vibes: it’s lovely that the editing isn’t obsessed with building suspense for what’s to come. The fact that they bake in a tent rather than a steely, impersonal kitchen is crucial. We can see the greenery in the background behind them — we know when it’s raining and when the sun is shining disastrously, causing perfectly tempered chocolate to melt. The show also gives everyone space to shine and allows you to get familiar with every contestant. Somehow, no one fades into the background and we get a glimpse at each of their past experiences, motivations, and baking habits. How could you possibly get to know someone so well and then root for their failure?
Bake Off is all about embracing lighthearted, wholesome joy. If you’re still holding off, it’s time to let go of your stubbornness and let something happy fill your home.
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