The sweetest show on Netflix
March 26, 2017
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The Great British Bake Off is perhaps the most pleasant show on Netflix right now. Produced by BBC in England, this reality TV cooking show explores the adventures of various amateur bakers from across Great Britain.
Unlike American cooking shows like Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen, this delight is more about showcasing the talents of English and Welsh bakers rather than tearing each other down. The show’s hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, are usually seen helping contestants complete their treats before the time is called. While the judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are quick to call out competitors who don’t fulfill the requirements of the round, they are generally helpful and seem as though their goal is to improve the quality of the baked goods they are consuming.
I have seen three of the seasons of the show—the ones that are available on Netflix. Each episode is around fifty minutes long and contestants bake three dishes with a central theme. This episode just happened to be about biscuits (the British word for cookies). The first round is called the signature bake, in which all the bakers are assigned to put their personal spin on a sweet treat. The episode I watched last night featured biscotti as the showstopper, and flavors like chocolate, cranberry, and even sundried tomato were seen. The second round is the technical challenge, which is dreaded by the bakers. During the technical challenge, either Paul or Mary will present the bakers with a stripped-down version of one of their recipes—such as arlettes, which are a French cookie that looks like a flat, crispy, cinnamon bun. The final round is called the showstopper, and contestants make a display centered around the theme of the episode. For example, the biscuit episode’s showstopper consisted of making 36 biscuits inside of an edible box. There was a large variety of interpretations on this, and everything from macarons to classic British shortbread to gingerbread was seen. After the showstopper, Paul and Mary discuss with Sue and Mel who the star baker, or best competitor, was that week. Unfortunately, they also decide which person will go home.
The thing that is so magical about this show is the good feeling that you get while watching it. Every other cooking show I have watched involves a scary host, dramatic background music, and places all of the emphasis around a large—normally cash—prize that the victor will receive. In fact there is never even a mention of any kind of monetary reward for the winner of GBBO—the real prize is the friendships that the contestants make and the delicious baked goods they create. Sue and Mel always make wise cracks and puns related to the bake; For example, Sue said that since there were only five minutes left in a particular bake, the bakers should “make like Anne Boleyn and get a… head.” With dishes like trifles, biscuits, and spotted dick, the Great British Bake Off is a true classic, and it makes me long for a similar, easy-going baking show on this side of the pond.