Amongst the beautiful English countryside sits a white tent decorated with multi-coloured bunting. No, this is not a vintage tea party, but the home of the BBC series The Great British Bake Off. As a competition in which 12 contestants aim to be crowned the ultimate baker, it is somewhat surprising how this romanticised village fete is now in its seventh series, with viewing figures that compete with England football matches. This show has captivated the British public, and one cannot help but wonder why.
The programme undeniably uses a fool-proof system. Like many other popular shows one contestant is knocked out each week. Yet, where the viewing figures for these shows have plummeted, GBBO has excelled. Departing judge Mary Berry attributes its popularity to its relatability, saying that ‘[the] people in it could be your sister, your son, your next door neighbour’. The BBC cleverly picks contestants that seem, to put it simply, normal. None of them are particularly glamorous, even that interesting whilst some of them just seem a bit odd (take Val from the present series). It does feel as if you are watching friends or family, and as the weeks go on you do grow surprisingly attached to the contestants.
This makes GBBO possibly the least offensive show to ever exist. Unlike other “knock out” shows where the contestants can be ridiculed, the most offensive thing in an episode is pastry with a “soggy bottom”. When something does go wrong, there is little mockery but support from the contestants, who help each other when disaster strikes. Even the public get involved, most famously during “Swan Gate” where Ian’s Baked Alaska became a puddle of ice cream (whether by Diane’s wrong doing we will never know), leading to the hashtag #bringianback. Maybe I’m just a softie, but an element of sympathy is felt for the contestants when they cry over their collapsing cake.
And this is the winning formula of the show. When there is so little to complain about, surely you are on to a winner. The overall “niceness” of the programme makes it a feel good, easy watch that so many enjoy. Let’s hope that Channel 4 doesn’t plan to change this winning formula, despite the departures of the show’s most well-known judge and its presenters, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.