Like many Americans, I’ve had a love affair with reality TV since childhood. I’ve binge watched Say Yes to the Dress, Chopped, Project Runway, Big Brother, Cake Boss, and What Not to Wear. But there is one show that truly holds my heart and my attention: The Great British Bake Off (known as the Great British Baking Show in the United States).
I don’t know whether it’s the bad teeth or the British accents, but The Great British Bake Off strikes me as the ideal reality TV show. Perhaps this is because it is so very different from every other reality TV show I’ve seen.
First of all, the great British Bake off is charming. Set in lovely white tents on the picturesque lawn of Welford Park (an estate in the British countryside about 70 miles west of London), the show is officiated by two witty commentators and judged by Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Though bakers sometimes crack under pressure, much like the bread they’re expected to bake, no one swears when said bread develops a soggy bottom. They’re far too civilized for that. When Mary Berry pronounces a bake “scrummy,” the baker knows she’s done a smashing job.
In addition to its charm, the Great British Bake Off is supportive. The commentators are always free to lend a hand, and even the bakers have been known to help each other. Whenever a contestant is asked to leave the tent, he is engulfed in a group hug.
Unlike American reality shows, the Great British Bake off is also fair. The bakers are selected for their prowess at baking and not for their outlandish personalities. They are asked to demonstrate their skill in 3 challenges: the signature challenge, the technical challenge, and the showstopper. To minimize the pressure and maximize the chances for good bakes, the contestants are able to practice their craft at home the week leading up to each competition day.
There’s only one problem with the Great British Bake off: Now that I’ve seen such a brilliant show, it’s ruined my ability to enjoy other reality TV programs. The needless drama gets old fast, and I can’t help but miss the GBBO, where the most scandalous event was #bingate, wherein a contestant’s baked Alaska was taken out of the fridge too early and subsequently tossed in the bin.
Graphic by: Kelly Shor