Enjoying a book, listening to a podcast or watching a television show that offers talented people doing tasks beyond my abilities are a few of the ways I enjoy welcoming media into my life. And so, as someone who has watched more PBS programming in the past four years than another other channel, it was last fall that I happened upon The Great British Baking Show, season two (I will explain why the seasons of the UK version don’t align below), and immediately my interest was piqued.
Season three premiered earlier this summer, airing each Friday at 9pm (and sometimes a second episode at 10pm), and knowing the show originated on BBC Two in 2010, I began to look for previous seasons and episodes. And I also was determined to figure out why PBS changed the name to “Baking Show” from The Great British Bake-Off.
As reported by The Telegraph, the idea for The Great British Bake-Off actually originated in the United States as the creators Anna Beattie and her husband Richard McKerrow, after discussing ideas for potential shows were introduced to the American bake-offs by a friend. And it is just the moniker “Bake-Off”, regarding events sponsored by Pillsbury and evidentially trademarked, that required PBS to change the name to The Great British Baking Show (now we know why!!!).
But let’s start back with the original. Premiering in 2010 on BBC Two, and now having wrapped up its sixth season (season three here in the states), during its fifth season, the show garnered so much popularity and interest by fans that it was moved to BBC One.
There are many components that keep me tuning in each week (and sometimes binging as I have found all of the episodes on Youtube – yes, they are available and in great quality):
- The hosts – Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins have been a dynamic comedic duo well before GBBO came around, and so their team effort of sincere encouragement for the contestants, witty puns and cheeky innuendos give the show a light-hearted and playful air. (Click here to learn even more about the duo.)
- The judges – Mary Berry (a successful cookbook writer – here are all of her books) and Paul Hollywood (a professional baker – check out his website here). They are honest, frank, and from time to time Paul will crack a smile, and Mary will be delighted with a new ingredient or idea that a contestant as chosen. The almighty handshake from Paul is always a good sign, and awaiting to see who it will be next is fun each episode.
- The baking assignments – At least 75% of the baking tasks assigned the contestants are new to my ears, and nearly 100% of the technical bakes. I continue to learn something new in each episode and with each of the three baking sessions in each episode (Signature Bake, Technical Challenge & Show-Stopper). I try to listen as closely as possible to the feedback given by Paul & Mary as they also offer simple tricks and tips that answer questions in my own baking.
- Star Baker – Did you know that in the first episode, a star baker wasn’t awarded? Thankfully, this positive addition began in the second season, and I must say, I am always curious to see who is awarded the title each week.
- The contestants – From all walks of life, a very diverse and passionate cohort is brought together each season. Even in the competitive environment, they display genuine good sportsmanship which is absolutely refreshing.
- The British accent & vocabulary!!! – from “I am completely gutted,” to “I’m chuffed,”and “gobsmacked”. Love it!
- Not your typical reality show – the only drama is if the cake will rise or the crust is properly cooked. Mel and Sue really are the soothers, the helpers, the food counselors (okay, really taste-tasters) that console and cheerlead the contestants as they struggle with challenges. (Read more here about how the hosts walked out in season 1 when they felt drama was being unnecessarily milked which ultimately prompted the focus to only be on the baking rather than the tears.)
Now to clear up some confusion about the seasons and how they align here in the states. Currently, there are six completed seasons of The Great British Bake-Off. Season 7 is believed to be premiering soon in the UK as they are likely taping it this summer. Season one of PBS’s The Great British Baking Show was actually season 5 of GBBO, and season two was season 4 of GBBO (why?? I do not know.) However, season three, which is airing currently on PBS, is the latest season of GBBO (season 6).
I highly recommend going back and watching the first season as it was the only season that moved around the United Kingdom for each week’s Bake-Off (you can find them all here on YouTube). The destination determined their focus. For example, in the Cotswolds, cakes were the theme, in Sarre Windmill, Kent, bread was the theme, and intertwined in each episode were in-depth historical profile pieces that were quite fascinating for history buffs and foodies. While they sometimes do include these extras as the end of the episodes here in the states, the depth in the first season is far more interesting.
Okay, now to figure out how to bake Season 1 Edd Kimber’s chocolate ginger ganache tarts (with a little gold fleck on top). My tastebuds are salivating already.
On your mark . . . Get set . . . Bake! (Part of my enjoyment is to hear the new creation of how Mel & Sue are going to synchronize the show’s coined phrase. It really is the simple things that delight me.)