The Great British Bake Off – has Britain been over baked?

When the Great British Bake Off first graced our television sets in 2010, it quickly gained popularity. After becoming the most watched show on BBC2 it was moved to BBC1 for its fifth series. Watching it was a weekly ritual in many households across the UK, although no one seemed to be able to express quite what made the show so engaging. “We were all on the edge of our seats for soggy bottoms, it made no sense”, claims second-year law student, Estera. After all, it was just baking. Although the show was not without its drama: who could forget the Bingate episode and the fate of Iain’s melted creation. Even without this sort of disaster, each montage of the contestants furiously trying to complete their bakes in the allotted times was engaging and we could not wait to see the results from our sofas: who had failed, providing the judges with a raw or tasteless bake, and who had triumphed?
But maybe that wasn’t the whole of it. Perhaps part of the attraction lay in the way the show played upon collective British nostalgia. We were drawn in by the pastel mixers and counter tops that were reminiscent of a quaint, bygone England. The pristine white tent, the Cath Kidston-esque decor inside and the loveliness of judge Mary Berry represented an idyllic Britain that may never actually have existed but that was appealing and comforting to its audience.
Another aspect of the show which has perhaps aided its popularity is the contestants’ attitude towards one another, as second year English student Jack says: “the people seem to like each other and they help each other out which is refreshing to watch, especially when there seems to be so much nastiness in other reality TV shows”. It’s true that when one contestant is having a baking-related disaster, instead of revelling in their misfortune, other contestants often offer a helping hand. The show does not resort to creating drama through in-fighting to promote its popularity. All of these things have massively contributed to the rise of the Great British Bake Off to being one of the most watched shows in the UK.
However, something about the show has felt different this series. Many people who used to watch it religiously are now falling behind by one or even two shows, with some even having the audacity to tune in for the final after skipping most of the lead up. One student suggested that this was perhaps because of the 2015 set of contestants, as she personally did not warm to them as.
But second-year history student Rosie disagrees on this point, saying that she “still likes the people on it, the problem is that it’s same old, same old”. So perhaps, rather than it being this year’s round of contestants or that anything has changed, it’s simply the fact that Bake Off has become repetitive. Perhaps, like other once hugely popular reality TV shows, it has had its golden years and is now slipping towards the territory of irrelevance; like X Factor, Big Brother and so many other shows before it. In a time where new and original TV is constantly streaming into our living rooms maybe we, as viewers, can only give our attention to the same show for so long before we grow bored of the familiarity and turn to something new to keep us entertained.


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January 2022
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