Every year, “The Great British Bake Off” (2010–) premieres — on Channel 4 for British viewers and Netflix for Americans — with another round of bakers entering the famous white tent on the grounds of an English estate in Essex. What once was just a prized British phenomenon, “Bake Off” has taken on the international stage, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch 12 amateur bakers battle it out in a series of baking challenges.
Episodes roll out each week, with one contestant going home and one being termed “star baker.” Each week starts with a new theme, whether focused on breads, pastries, biscuits or cakes, and each participant vies to be the top home baker of the lot.
This year’s series — the 12th season since the show’s start in 2010 — definitely matched up to past years’, especially given the usual nature of the contestants to be wholesome, diligent and dedicated. Fan favorites were Jürgen Krauss and Giuseppe Dell’Anno, whose inspiring bakes consistently received praises from the mass of viewers around the world.
In terms of ratings, the 12th season did quite a bit worse than last year. It only achieved a little over half the average viewers that the 11th season received, which is thought to be due to COVID-19 lockdowns having previously increased viewership. Overall, the show has seen up and down viewership since it switched from BBC One to Channel 4 after series 7, losing judge Mary Berry and hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc along the way.
This year’s judges were Paul Hollywood, who has been with the show since its start in 2010, and Prue Leith, who joined “Bake Off” in 2017. Though there was a drop off in viewers after judge Mary Berry left the tent, the judges over the past five seasons have sustained their warmth, good humor and constructive criticism. The contestants seem to truly look up to the judges for their genuine feedback, which reinforces the chemistry in the tent that viewers watch from home.
The only point where the show could use improvement was with the hosts, Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas. Each episode began with the two performing comedy sketches that were over-the-top and did not flatter the more “cozy” feel of “Bake Off.” Back in the tent, they consistently made cringey jokes while distracting the bakers, with Matt singing the entire “Meet the Flintstones” theme song in German to baker Jürgen and Noel somewhat hogging the camera. Though the contestants would sometimes laugh along, the hosts’ untimely jokes were, frankly, annoying. Many “Bake Off” viewers feel that perhaps the newer hosts simply do not measure up to the past personalities of Mel and Sue.
That being said, with each unfortunate joke, the bakers would respond with witty quips, and their impressive bakes still stole the show, meaning the talent and personality of the participants kept the unfortunate hostmanship from detracting from the series’ usual flow.
“The Great British Baking Show” has finally regained its footing in its most recent season. The baking this year was simply at a superb level; each finalist was crowned star baker twice and received two of the coveted Paul Hollywood handshakes. The bakers themselves were also a more diverse group than the past couple of years, as the show reintroduced more variety in their ages, with the youngest contestant even baking solely vegan treats. The show also shone with the chemistry between the contestants, which was facilitated by the maintenance of the “Bake Off Bubble.”
The final episode featured the finalists hugging and cheering for each other in a genuine moment of happiness and warmth, which can really only be derived from a classic episode of “Bake Off.” The contestants this year were closer than ever; the final concluded with a montage of all the bakers reuniting after the show. The series maintained its classic British humor and banter, with Hollywood and Leith deciding to choose the winner of the show over a “cuppa.” Despite some of the more unfortunate gags by the hosts, “The Great British Baking Show” is back to its usual standard, providing respite from some of today’s more dramatic reality television and baking competitions.