Anglophiles and baking enthusiasts received a holiday gift from PBS yesterday: The network is now broadcasting the wildly popular U.K. series The Great British Bake Off (albeit under the name The Great British Baking Show).
PBS is currently airing the fifth season, which originally appeared on BBC One this fall. The October finale was 2014’s second most watched TV program in the U.K., bested only by the England-Uruguay World Cup match.
The Great British Baking Show is a kinder, gentler cooking show that’s low on theatrics, Botox, and profanity, and high on charm, skill, and eccentricity. Hosted by the serene 79-year-old cookbook author Mary Berry and master baker Paul Hollywood, it’s filmed under a tent decorated with British flag pendants and pastel colored mugs. Sheep graze and brooks bubble on the bucolic grounds outside the tent, where mild but engaging drama ensues as contestants attempt to assemble crack-free Swiss rolls and perfect their powdered sugar glazes. And—quaint alert!—each contestant’s dish is introduced via an illustration.
Hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc and judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood
This country got a glimpse at Paul Hollywood last year when CBS aired a disastrous U.S. version of the show called The American Baking Competition. As if the uninspired name weren’t bad enough, the casting was bizarre and found Hollywood paired with unknown Mexican cooking expert and reality show competitor Marcela Valladolid and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Did anyone at CBS think to call Dorie Greenspan and Johnny Iuzzini? Or Erin McKenna and Brooks Headley? The show was canceled due to low ratings and almost tanked Hollywood’s marriage. (He admitted to an affair with Valladolid.)
The BBC had the great foresight to hire Berry, the mild mannered cookbook author who has become an overnight sensation. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth appointed her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and she’s since had a big hand in forming British food trends. (The British media even blamed Berry’s popularity for a waning interest in vegetable gardening.)
Could Berry join the ranks of Martha and Ina? Will The Great British Baking Show be the tastiest British import since Downton Abbey? Stay tuned. Episode two will air next week. The theme will be biscuits.
The British Baking Show’s contestants
Are you going to watch The Great British Baking Show? Why or why not?
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