Collection 7 of The Great British Baking Show, Presented to Savor, not Binge-Eat
Series 10 of the Great British Bake Off, or as the Americans are forced by trademark law and broadcasting vagaries to call it, Collection 7 of the Great British Baking Show, is in full swing now on Netflix, and what a rip-roaring experience it is! (Union Jack bunting in an air-conditioned kitchen/tent is the textbook definition of rip-roaring in some English dialects.)
Viewers who are entranced with vicarious caster sugar and hypnotized by the cheerful soundtrack are experiencing their favorite reality baking show in a very new way and, for the first time ever, in sync with their British cousins. Netflix, the media outlet that typically drops three years’ worth of grueling production work in 24 episodes you can watch in one extremely long, sweaty weekend, is changing format with the newest installment of the Great British Baking Show by releasing it to us one week at a time, and simultaneously with the British TV networks that air it.
Those of us who previously followed #GBBO hashtags on Twitter to effectively time-travel to seasons that did not exist yet with the help of British audiences, or at least felt a little smug superiority in watching the series as the good Lord intended, broadcast on PBS, have lost our advantage and must wait an entire week before we know what comes next.
And I think the format is working. There’s plenty of grumbling going on in my corner of the Mom-verse as the broadcast schedule forces us to remember what our pioneer ancestors suffered when they had to wait an entire seven days for Biscuit Week. But I think it’s a smart move to synchronize Anglophonia, especially since the show is such a delight to interact with in real time on social media. There are already Jamie memes, tributes to the darling 20-year-old who, at least it seems from the first two episodes, can’t really cook a single thing. Hispanic goth baker Helena has become the mascot of the corners of the Internet who have been anxiously awaiting the appearance of Halloween decor in Target since February.
Speaking of loveable goths, host Noel Fielding has really come into his own. His wardrobe choices, including his epic Dinosaur Jr. jumper, remain utterly inscrutable and probably come from an atelier run by the ghost of Andy Warhol. He sneaks in just enough weirdness to keep us on our toes: “The cake I dreamt of as a child had marzipan arms, and we just held hands together.” And though we thought we would never recover when the show moved off of BBC and lost judge Mary Berry and hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc in one fell blow, we have maybe almost forgotten that there was a time when we swore that the show would never be the same.
The show is the same. And maybe this is worrisome to those who sell television for a living? They do try to spice things up a bit as the years go by, for example, going way out into hedonistic territory by adding a Danish Week last season. And this new season started with 13 bakers (a baker’s dozen! Get it? Get it?) instead of the typical 12, which means that there’s always the possibility that two may have to go home on any given week!
And I say this facetiously because it’s all well and good. No one needs this show to change, but we’re really just fine when it does. That is, as long as they never lose their soul: kind, lovely, carby happiness wrapped up in a little bit of marshmallowy trauma and sprinkled with the type of naughty jokes whose delivery is so deadpan that your six-year-old has no idea what just flew over his head. We want more of the swiss meringues and the mint jellies and the lovingly diverse cast of bakers who whisper “well done!” to one another as the frightening gingerbread judges circle the room. And if we have to wait a week at a time for it, well that’s just like making a decadent dessert last a little longer. We’ll be glad in the end that The Great British Baking Show forced us to be prudent.