Savor ‘British Baking’ while you can
Original cast’s exit may stir up show’s recipe for success
Mary Berry thinks someone’s Genoese sponge cake is too dense, and it’s very comforting news to hear. The Great British Baking Show returns to PBS Friday (9 p.m. ET/ PT, times may vary), for what’s being billed as a fourth season. But it’s really the seventh season of the show, known as The Great
British Bake Off in the United Kingdom, where it aired last year. These 10 new episodes mark the last featuring the show’s original cast, including Berry and fellow judge Paul Hollywood, and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. The show is moving to a new channel in the U.K, with only Hollywood remaining.
No offense to Hollywood and his impossible-to-read stares, but the show simply won’t have the same magic without Berry, Giedroyc and Perkins.
But stateside viewers won’t have to face that reality for a while: PBS is expected to air an earlier ( but still unseen) season next year. And the knowledge that the show will soon lose three of its most essential elements makes the magic of the foursome stand out even more.
While the contestants and challenges may change, the show’s basic recipe remains consistent. Each week kicks off with a “signature challenge.” A “technical challenge” involves obscure pastries and cakes. The “showstopper challenge” produces beautiful (or disastrous) cre- ations. At the end, there’s a “star baker,” and someone must go home.
The contestants are always diverse, passionate and kind, helping rivals in a jam (including jam-related jams). Each season features a similar crop: An older, traditional baker; one who’s still in school; and a baker who’s especially ambitious with design. This season’s most endearing participant is Val, described as “a retired headmistress, grandmother, Keep Fit fanatic and Ed Sheeran fan.” She dances aerobically while she bakes, and is truly the hero we need.
The new season also reminds us what the hosts and judges add to that comforting consistency. Giedroyc and Perkins will always be there for the baker who succumbs to pressure. Hollywood reserves his handshakes for the very best bakes. Giedroyc will always be delighted by really welldefined “layers” in the creations.
Perkins misses an early episode, and her absence is keenly felt. It makes you wonder who else can open a show by singing an a cappella two-part harmony about baking? Probably not new hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig, though surely they’ll give it their best effort.
For some viewers, new episodes are precious, even though some stream on Netflix. But the show has always been more about the delightful journey than the destination. (Winning bakers don’t even win any money.)
At least in the U.S., we have a little more of that journey left. And it’s worth savoring every morsel.
The latest season of The Great British Baking Show is the last featuring the original cast.
Bakers create pastries to complete the weekly “signature,” “technical” and “showstopper” challenges.