Why Does The U.K. Love ‘The Great British Bake Off’ So Much? [Opinion]

Since it first aired in August of 2010, The Great British Bake Off(GBBO) has become a national institution. It might sound unbelievably quaint that an entire country gets massively invested in a show about baking for two months of the year, but this is the situation we find ourselves in.

What sets The Great British Bake Off apart from the crowd?

The longstanding success of the show is seemingly down to its wholesome place in the reality TV canon, a place where cheap stunts and unflattering editing often contrive drama out of thin air. GBBO doesn’t rely on larger-than-life characters, cruel judges, or overly sappy sob stories. It’s a touchingly earnest hour and change of television. It’s competitive, sure, but contestants are supportive of one another, and if any bickering or animosity does exist, it certainly doesn’t make the final edit. While we are treated to a revolving cycle of grim and depressing events in the real world, it’s nice to be able to escape into the Bake Off tent to watch a bunch of people who absolutely love baking, simply bake.

Netflix binges and HBO prestige dramas may be worming their way into the national consciousness, but the (former) terrestrial broadcast giants still hold sway when it comes to providing the grandstanding televisual moments of the year. The show caused an uproar in 2014 with the “Bingate” furor, when one contestant was zealously accused of sabotage after another contestant’s Baked Alaska did not set properly. The incident resulted in more than 800 complaints to the viewing standards agency, Ofcom, according to the Guardian.

There have been numerous accusations of favoritism from the judges throughout the show’s history, toward both men and women at varying times, and famously towards Ruby Tandoh in the fourth season. The fact that a young Muslim mother, Nadiya Hussain, won the sixth season has been viewed as an important step toward the acceptance of religious and cultural diversity in the U.K. The finale of that season was the most watched show of the year, with more than 15 million viewers (almost a quarter of the population!).

Since winning the Bake Off, Nadiya has become a national celebrity.

Changes for the new season

The first seven years of the show were broadcast on the BBC, before it was bought over and moved to Channel 4, one the BBC’s biggest pre-digital rivals. The move, and the change of personnel it entailed, caused many fans to vow never to watch the show again. Both of the presenters this year were newcomers to the show, as was one of the two judges, and longtime fans were nervous to see the new incarnation of the show this past August.

Ultimately, there was nothing to fear, as the season chartered a smooth course, inciting the requisite amount of subtle humor, tension, and creativity needed to capture the nation’s interest. The most controversial moment was saved for the final day when one of the judges, Prue Leith, accidentally tweeted the name of the winner (Sophie Faldo) on the morning before the finale. According to the BBC, she was in Bhutan at the time and was confused by the time difference.

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However, this wasn’t enough to put a dampener on what has been, on the whole, a very successful season for GBBO. When you have the winning recipe that the Bake Off has hit upon, it seems that the individual components can be easily swapped without stirring up too much trouble. It’s hard to see how such a simple and enticing premise is ever going to fail.

[Featured Image by LiliGraphie/Thinkstock]