Is this the most uneventful season of The Great British Bake Off, comparable to watching dough slowly rise?
Maintaining a show’s appeal for 14 seasons is difficult, especially when it comes to a show like Bake Off. It’s a challenge to keep the format fresh and exciting each year, even with changes in network and hosts, and the added challenges of the pandemic. However, even though The Great British Bake Off may have peaked in earlier seasons, it still delivers its signature sweetness and remains a reliable source of entertainment, even during its weaker seasons.
This year’s Bake Off has committed a grave mistake, even worse than giving Russell Brand the title of star baker for creating cookies in the likeness of his wife’s private parts: it is uninteresting.
At the beginning, having Alison Hammond on the show gave the impression that it would be a great season. I mentioned this in my review, describing her as a “charming burst of energy”. Although the first episode lacked excitement in terms of baking drama, it appeared that a new and enjoyable era was on the horizon. However, by the third episode, also known as bread week, something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t just because bread week involves contestants waiting for their dough to rise for hours. It was also because watching them compete had become as uninteresting as watching dough rise.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went awry. In season six, Paul Jagger’s bread lion was just as thrilling as seeing Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star. However, this year, when Tasha won with her milk bread Medusa in the showstopper round – complete with dark green braided snakes emerging from a doughy face that only a mother could love – it was rather lackluster. It’s evident that something has gone amiss: Bake Off appears to have reached a plateau, with few standout bakes.
Unfortunately, the contestants on the show lack strong personalities despite their impressive talent. While some, such as Saku, bring a fun energy to their baking even when things go wrong, others like Rowan and Dana are charming and delightful individuals that you would love to have dinner with. However, the show is missing the standout personalities of past contestants like Nadiya, Giuseppe, Ruby, Liam, and Kim-Joy. In comparison, season seven’s Selasi, a cool and suave economist who rode a motorbike, received numerous texts praising his charisma and Twitter was saddened when he revealed he had a serious girlfriend.
Compared to the skilled bakers of the show’s past, the current contestants are exhibiting more caution and playing it safe. They use self-deprecating humor to gain a decent following on Instagram and possibly a cookbook deal. During the chocolate week challenge, where they were tasked with making a box, none of them showed true creativity and even the star baker’s attempt fell short. This has resulted in a noticeable decrease in energy. Cristy appears extremely tense, willing to burn down the tent rather than face elimination. On the other hand, contestants like Dan, Josh, and Dana seem more relaxed and focused on simply making it to the next round rather than standing out as a breakout star. While Bake Off is charming and lighthearted, it lacks the boldness and confidence needed to make the relatively low stakes worth investing in.
Hammond remains a delight; she and Noel Fielding have excellent chemistry, but hearing them chat last week about their sleeping habits (both are night owls) while the contestants made hot-water pastry felt like a solid argument for switching off and having an early night yourself. It may be too much to ask of contestants to turn a 14th-century pastry technique into riveting TV but viewers need more
Additionally, a majority of the small dramas in this season are unoriginal. A scorching day for chocolate week? How groundbreaking. A baked good appears appetizing, but the flavors require improvement? Oh my. The filling in a pie is scrumptious, but the crust on the bottom is damp? Impressive.
After the recent departures of Nicky and Rowan, it’s difficult to feel excited about tuning in to tonight’s episode of botanical week. While there may be some attractive floral-themed outfits and the possibility of a tear-inducing handshake for Saku, Bake Off just doesn’t seem to have the same spark anymore. In 2010, Selasi, a fan favorite, almost got eliminated during botanical week and caused a stir on social media. But this year, aside from a few memes featuring Alison Hammond, it’s hard to imagine anyone being too upset about the outcome. Maybe the real disappointment is that after 14 seasons, the show is starting to lose its charm and we should accept that it’s become quite dull.
However, the lesson from Bake Off’s format is that a terrible performance can be redeemed by executing something impressive – a showstopper can always save the day in the end. We can only hope that this will be the case, as long as there are enough of us still awake to witness it.