It’s a family friendly show with a glorious selection of food items being baked from cakes, tarts, bread, pies, pancakes, and quiches—all by normal people who enjoy baking. The show has inspired a nation, whatever their age to bake, and has seen a flurry of baking pans, utensils and books filling the shop shelves. There are some great family recipes that are shared, tips from the experts, and some emotional moments when cakes flop, or when things get burnt. The British public loves a show that is honest, and that they can identify with—that’s the recipe to the popularity and success and rise of bake off. The show moved from its original home of BBC2 to the more prestigious BBC1 when viewing figures shot up, and has made headline news again, but this time because the BBC has lost the rights to the show. The production company (Love Productions) went for money and the £25 million that Channel 4 offered, compared to the £15 million that the BBC could afford.
Now in its seventh season, the award winning show began on BBC2 with a viewing audience of just 2 million, compared to nearly 15 million today. The hosts are Mel (Giedroyc) and Sue (Perkins) with the expert judges Mary Berry, and a master baker, Paul Hollywood. The show is a reality contest where a dozen bakers are given specific challenges (technical, showstopper and signature) to bake and are judged on taste, appearance, skill, and creativity. The appeal is that all bakers are normal people who love to bake. Beside the competition element, there are also hints and tips from the experts—Mary Berry is a well known cookery writer who until the show was popular amongst the weekly magazines, and the then unknown Paul Hollywood who now has several books under his belt, and his own range of bread mixes.
Without a doubt, the formula of the hosts down to earth cheekiness (sampling items, and emotionally supporting teary bakers), coupled with the experts were and are the reasons for the popularity. Indeed, my Facebook feed can get heated when people argue over the star baker of the week, and who should have gone. Now that formula has been lost, as Mel and Sue immediately announced they would not be joining the show on Channel 4, exclaiming, “We’re not going with the dough,” and are remaining loyal to the BBC. The big question is whether Mary and Paul will remain loyal, or be tempted by money? The public have supported Mel and Sue, applauding their integrity, and many assume and hope the judges will too. However, the prolonged silence over any comment with excuses such as they are too busy on other projects doesn’t wash. Mary is 81-years-old and doesn’t need to do the show, as she has her own shows in addition the the bake off, but Paul is still relatively young and not as established and needs to make the most of his fame while it lasts.
While Love Productions have the right to choose which channel they wish to work with, the public see things differently—in a world where money does seem to matter, loyalty still has a place for the British at least. It does seem like a betrayal, in that the BBC took a chance on a small show, supported it and made it a success. There are rumours that Channel 4 are talking to Nadiya Hussein to host the show (the most recent winner) or Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby—a huge mistake in both cases. Nadiya wasn’t the best baker of the show, but maybe there was an element of trying to be PC about things. If she hadn’t won, then there would have been outcries of prejudice (a Muslim baker), and as for a host, she doesn’t have the experience to host a show. As for Fearne and Holly, they maybe active in magazines and on social media, but they aren’t as well liked as the media seem to think. Of course they are blonde, pretty, smile, and wear great clothes, but that’s it. Teen boys fancied them and girls liked their clothes, but Holly can barely read an autocue without stumbling or giggling, and Fearne, well let’s face it she was always seen as the less pretty one of the pair who married well (her father in-law is a Rolling Stone).
Critics and pundits predict the show will fail as they tend to when they switch networks, but the success of the show is on how the public supports it and right now the British public feel betrayed by Love Productions. Knowing how important the public is to their success, any potential presenters need to take that into consideration as it could kill their career. If Mary chooses to switch sides she may survive, but is more likely to retire, but if Paul does defect then his popularity will sink. Will the duo remain or split? The current series is slowly developing with a few interesting characters, but the news of Mel and Sue departing has detracted from the essence of the show, while the public wait to see what Mary and Paul will do.