Over the course of six delightful series, The Great British Bake Off built its reputation as the greatest comfort television on air, thanks to the inviting atmosphere cultivated by presenters Mel and Sue, Mary Berry and the wholesome contestants as they baked and cracked jokes week-by-week. It was a fond escapism from reality and thus captured the hearts of the nation. So when this comfort was ripped away when Channel 4 brought the show from the BBC, viewers weren’t happy. As the central team began to drop out from the show until only Paul Hollywood remained, pessimism grew and left the success of the series on Channel 4 in question. Now over a year later, Bake Off has finally made its awaited debut in its new home – the question is, has the show’s charm and quality been maintained in the changeover?
Most of what we came to love on the show remains the same now: the basic format is identical and the challenges themselves remain both familiar yet challenging for the new group of bakers. Everything about the aesthetic of the show, from the tent’s decorations to Tom Howe’s soft score in the background to the opening sequence, remains the same and adequately recaptures the warm atmosphere that Bake Off is known for. Even one of the most dreaded changes – the addition of adverts on Channel 4 – has barely affected the show. While the adverts do somewhat cut up the pacing of the show, the episodes remain about an hour long thanks to a 75 minute timeslot.
Where the new season shines brightest is in its new set of bakers
Some of the new presenters and judges on the show even appear to fit into the niches filled by the departed Mary, Mel and Sue. New presenter, Sandi Toksvig’s comforting presence and self-deprecating humour is an amalgamation of the dynamic and presences of Mel and Sue while Noel Fielding carries the bulk of the gags, toning down his usual absurdist jokes to a more palatable level while remaining a quirky, likable presence. The two may seem incompatible but they have a weird and sweet chemistry together as presenters. Meanwhile, Prue Leith fits into a Mary-like dynamic with Paul – who remains robust as ever – though perhaps is yet to make a huge impression.
Where the new season shines brightest is in its new set of bakers. One week in and they are already showcasing some truly impressive bakes that set the bar high – highlights including Steven’s Bonfire Night cake and Yan’s Ramen illusion cake. If the standard maintains, we are in for some special bakes. Engaging and likable personalities are also already emerging from the bakers – Flo, Yan and Liam all stand out on this front and the rest seem a lovely bunch too. The standard was so high that I almost missed having a first boot who entertainingly destroys everything in their path. We get hints in a few subpar technical efforts from Stacey and Chris, but it feels like the edit barely showcased Peter before he was already out for an underwhelming illusion cake.
It’s still worth a watch for the stunning bakes
Ultimately while The Great British Bake Off may seem the same, it never quite will be. Although the new team make good first impressions, the magic of Mary, Mel and Sue’s presence on the show is something that can’t really be recreated. As a result, the new series comes across as a very enjoyable recreation of the show as it stood a year ago, while not quite containing the same ingredients that made it as good as it was. It’s still worth a watch for the stunning bakes but not quite as joyous as it was.