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An American’s Guide To The Great British Baking Show



In true American fashion, I just assumed that the USA was the best at reality television. I knew that the Brits had cornered the market on entertainment involving wizardry and corsets, but I thought we had the upper hand in regards to “unscripted” TV.   Like Paul Revere, I’m here to warn you that the British are coming and all they want is to bring us biscuits and adorable judges.   The Great British Baking Show is the most charming show on TV.   There are some parts that are jarring to viewers on this side of the pond, but the initial shock wears off quickly.

The Great British Baking Show is a competition where amateur bakers compete to be crowned “star baker.” That’s it. There isn’t a cash prize.   There isn’t a new kitchen provided by Saran Wrapâ„¢. It is all for the love of the bake. Contestants have regular jobs as prison wardens, teachers and fitness fanatics. Each week, they are challenged to create a perfect example of a different type of baking. It is an insanely delightful show.

With that in mind, let’s get some American Frequently Asked Questions out of the way, so you can get a comfortable seat on the TGBBS bandwagon.

Q: Why aren’t the judges berating the contestants?

Typically, this is many Americans first reaction when watching the show. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (which could double as porn names) are notoriously constructive and kind in their critiques. The best example of their thoughtfulness is when Mary Berry begins all of her commentary with the phrase, “For me…” Which implies her opinion may be different than yours, but she respects you point of view.

Unlike some judges…20160712_211427

Q: There is something different about these contestants that I can’t quite put my finger on.

That isn’t a question, but I’ll still help you answer it. The bakers are all amateurs so if the bakes don’t turn out correctly, their whole world isn’t ruined. The contestants help out other competitors if they are in trouble.  They are decent to each other and for most reality shows this is a novel idea.

Since the contestants have a week to prepare for the next challenge, they often bring heirloom plates, handcrafted pots or their own inventions that will give them an advantage during their preparations. This is the most endearing thing about the contestants. I love seeing a pitifully made clay pot that will serve as a vessel for 36 biscotti.

Q: Why are there two hosts? Is that necessary?

Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are most definitely necessary. Sure, their infinite variations of “on your mark…. get set…. BAAAAKE” can be painful, but they add a wonderfully playful quality to the show. Mel is there to remind contestants that “it’s just a cake” when the mousse oozes out the side of a pan. Sue is there to accidently squash the bowl that a contestant spent a whole hour creating. They are like have two rambunctious toddlers in the kitchen. Who wouldn’t want that!?

Q: Where does the “Technical Challenge” rank in the list of the best reality show segments?

One. Obviously.

During the technical challenge, all of the contestants are given the same recipe and ingredients and are instructed to create the perfect version of that item.   There are a lot of quiet moments spent reading and re-reading the recipe. The magic comes when the bakers begin pulling their bakes out of their oven doors of the future with their pot-holder scarves. When twelve competent people try to make the same thing, but different interpretations of the directions veer them off course, the magic lies in all the diverse outcomes. The bakers line their bakes up on the “gingham alter” and, all of the sudden, viewers are able to see just how much can go wrong in a simple recipe. The slight variations show just how perfect the perfected bake actually is. It is a moment that no reality show has come close to replicating.

Q: What’s the over-under of shows before Mary Berry breaks her tooth on an overcooked biscuit?


Q: Even though each episode is shot over two days why do the contestants WEAR THE SAME CLOTHES EACH DAY?

I have no clue. It must be a British thing.

Q: What’s your favorite quote from the series?

“My rosemary is vindicated.” Someone needs to print that on a shirt. Stat.

Q: If the show is about making “perfect bakes” then why is there a raspberry missing on the cake in the opening title card?

Your guess is as good as mine and that picture frustrates me every time I watch it. The_Great_British_Bake_Off_title


Article written by Megan Suttles

I can't decide if I want to use this space to be witty or insightful. I guess it will be neither.