Great British Bake Off is back on TV and – according to other people who have written about Bake Off this week (proper people who get paid for their opinions) – it is the tonic to raise our spirits amidst a dark year as we head into a darker winter.
But, unlike them, I’m not sure I’m convinced.
I’ve watched a couple of episodes over the years (back when I was a person who got paid to present facts rather than get paid for opinions) and wasn’t convinced then but am going to try again this year because, like the proper people say, we do need a tonic to raise our spirits.
So . . . I was ready to enjoy the episode at 8pm on Thursday night with millions of others across the UK (well, I would have been if I hadn’t been out running so ended up watching it two hours later).
There are definitely some positives to Bake Off being back on our screens:
I like the way it is a viewing event suitable for all the family and has become a national institution.
There’s no binge watching because the whole series hasn’t been released for streaming. Instead people will all get to watch at the same time (or almost the same time) and develop their thoughts on their favourite bakers at the same time (so far I cannot remember any of them).
But the first episode has left me with more questions than answers:
When they made the pineapple upside down cakes they were told to put cream and a cherry on top. Why?
Why did they have to put cream on when in the previous scene when Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood are talking about what they are looking for in the task they are eating one with custard?
Who scripts the annoying pointless voiceover parts?
At some point during the show (I believe when they are making Battenburg cake) there’s a voiceover from Noel Fielding where he says: “The sooner the sponges begin baking, the sooner they can be cooled.” I’m not joking. That’s what he says. Give him the BAFTA for stating the obvious now and cancel all the other categories.
He would have been better off singing a Mighty Boosh song (please at some point they have to make an eel pie. He’d be in his element then).
My main question for the handful of episodes I’ve seen over the years has always been about the showstopper task.
Why do they film Paul Hollywood announcing this as if it is coming as a big surprise to them?
Occasionally you’ll even get a few pieces to camera where the contestants are taken outside the tent and have to talk about how tricky it is and how unprepared they are. Then other contestants inside the tent will talk about how they have practiced it at home a million times.
If they all practice it at home then why do we have to endure the fake surprise when the task is announced?
My other complaint about Great British Bake Off is the way they film it to make it look like baking is really difficult.
Yes, it’s difficult to be brilliant at but what these past few months have taught mostly everyone (if Instagram is to be believed – and you should never believe anything you see on Instagram unless you chanced upon Fiskal Policy through Instagram) is that it’s okay to try to bake.
It doesn’t matter if the bottom is a bit soggy or the cake didn’t rise like morning glory, as long as you enjoyed making it and liked eating it then that’s okay.
You’ll get better – baking really is something where it’s the taking part that counts (but probably read the recipe more carefully next time yeah)
It’s the same with Masterchef and other similar shows where they say “fish is difficult to get right” and we now have people who go out to the pub on a Sunday to have a roast dinner because they don’t realise it’s simple to make at home.
Adapting the words of my ex-stalker slightly (from the night I told her I wouldn’t go out with her): Can’t you at least try?
Watch Bake Off and be inspired by their creations and then try and find some flour before the stockpiling makes it impossible (the people who bought six months supply of toilet paper back in March have seemingly run out again leading to bare shelves so it’s surely only a matter of time before flour and eggs suffer the same fate) then enjoy it.
Enjoy yourself more than I enjoyed the first episode but I’ll persevere if you promise to bake something and persevere even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.
In that way Bake Off is a lot like life and that’s where its appeal truly lies.
Everything has changed over the past few months and, just as people have had to adapt to the world in which we are living, so has Bake Off.
Instead of being able to go home and see their loved ones and practice some of the tasks, then practice their fake surprise face for when the task is announced on camera, this time they are all staying in the same hotel separated from the rest of the world in a kind of Covid-19 bubble.
It’s a bit like The Apprentice but without over confident people in suits shouting at mobile phones.
If anyone from Channel 4 has read this far – I’d definitely watch a Big Brother style spin-off show where we get to see what they get up to when they aren’t beating eggs and whipping cream.
We could discover who is flakier than puff pastry and who looks sweet but leaves a sour taste in the mouth. So many questions could be answered once and for all.
Until then, we’ll just have to imagine whether tempers flare up faster than it takes to heat an oven or whether when the cameras are off they sit nicely together sipping Pennyroyal tea.
Stay safe for another week!