Two years ago, I stumbled upon “The Great British Baking Show” as I was sitting at home, sick and overwhelmingly stressed with the prospect of choosing a college and soon moving away from home. Now, these worries seem a world away, but I still remember watching my first episode of this baking show. There was something about the friendly competition, the endearing British contestants and the beautiful bakes that calmed my nerves and transported me to the quaint hills of England where my only concern was whether someone’s bread loaf was properly proofed.
Far removed from the cutthroat competition TV of the United States, these contestants could not be more loveable. These contestants come from all throughout England, sporting their regional twangs and endearing quirks. They come with lovely stories about their life at home and the stomachs they fill with delicious baked goods. They are amature bakers, simply baking for the “love” of it, and carrying on with their daily jobs throughout the weeks. The show is filmed on the weekends so that the contestants can return to their daily routines during the week and test out their bakes on family and friends. This has always been such a refreshing contrast to all the competition shows I have watched from the U.S. Of course, there are stressful moments in the show, but the stakes are not crushingly overbearing, with the final prize being a cake stand and the weekly “Star Baker” receiving a novelty sheriff’s pin for the week.
Not to mention, the bakes each week look beyond delicious. With the structure of each episode consisting of a signature bake, technical challenge and showstopper, the audience is exposed to a myriad of British bakes, many of which we have never heard of. Contestants practice their signature and showstopping bakes at home, preparing new flavor combinations and perfecting their skills. The technical challenge, where bakers receive a vague recipe and ingredients, typically consists of an obscure bake that oftentimes runs awry. Throughout these challenges, the bakers are constantly helping each other out and complimenting one another’s bakes.
With the new season of “The Great British Baking Show” debuting a new episode each week, this show is my favorite comfort amidst the stress of coronavirus, the tumultuous state of the world and my weekly to-do list of assignments and studying. This season (season 8 on Netflix) was filmed amidst the coronavirus, placing the bakers in an NBA-like bubble during the show’s filming. One baker remarked that this bubble was like a “wee baking town,” which I think sums up the charming, adorable attitudes of the contestants.
For this new season, the first episode had some off-elements with an odd signature challenge, having contestants bake celebrity busts and overly staged, comedic interludes by the hosts (think awkward skits and transitions during award shows). Critics have remarked that the show has become progressively more gimmicky and less quaint with the introduction of new challenges, hosts and judges over the past few seasons.
However, I still enjoyed this first episode of the new season with lovely British contestants and delicious bakes. It still had the overall feeling of hominess, warmth and lightness. “The Great British Baking Show” is one of those shows that you find yourself smiling at for the entirety of an episode. It melts away your worries, even for a short hour, and brings you to a tent in the rolling hills of England where the smells of strawberry jam, mascarpone cream and Victoria sponge float through the kitchen.
Make yourself a cup of tea, cozy up with a warm blanket and switch on this show for some comfort and calm amidst the chaos of our current world.