Skip to main content

The Daily Beast: "BBC Two’s The Great British Bake Off Is the Best Reality Show on TV"

The Great British Bake Off is a comforting show about baking—and it makes for truly addictive TV. Ahead of Tuesday night’s season finale, I explore the show’s charms and what it can teach the recently lackluster Top Chef.

At The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "BBC Two’s The Great British Bake Off Is the Best Reality Show on TV," in which I explore the deliciousness of BBC Two's culinary competition series The Great British Bake Off, my latest television obsession.

The best reality show on television this year doesn’t involve wannabe singers, “real” housewives, or Honey Boo Boo, but rather a bunch of Brits baking cakes in the countryside.

The insanely addictive culinary competition show The Great British Bake Off, which wraps up its third season tonight in the United Kingdom on BBC Two, isn’t remotely salacious or controversial, and that’s part of its inherent charm. (U.S. viewers, you can get your fix on YouTube for the time being.)

Bravo’s homegrown Top Chef could learn a thing or two from the runaway British television hit, which riveted 5.6 million viewers last week and grabbed a staggering 23.7 percent audience share, nearly trebling its audience from where it began in 2010. It also has been a critical triumph as well. Radio Times’s Jack Seale wrote of last week’s episode, “The French-themed semi-final was a tense affair, about as dramatic and unforgiving as telly can get while still being about cake. Hardcore patisserie.”

Pitting 12 home bakers against each other for the top prize by putting them through their paces with three challenges per week (a signature challenge, a technical challenge, and a showstopper), The Great British Bake Off shouldn’t be nearly as taut and stressful as it is. Yet there’s something intensely nerve-wracking about seeing a vicar’s wife attempt to make a beef Wellington ... and having the pastry casting slide off under the harsh heat of the oven, or a Fair Isle sweater-clad Scottish lad attempting to mix chilies and salt as a topping for a French macaron. And, yes, there is something hardcore about the challenges—produce 12 sweet and 12 savory bagels under pressure!—and the challengers themselves, ambitious amateurs with a breadth of skill and knowledge. They would put many of Top Chef’s or Sweet Genius’s professionals, some of whom seem more desperate for fame than to further their craft, to shame.

Unlike the show’s American culinary competition siblings, The Great British Bake Off, or GBBO for short, is cozy and comforting, the television equivalent of a steaming hot mug of cocoa. It doesn’t concern itself with mining drama out of the interpersonal relationships between the bakers. While Top Chef: Just Desserts tapped into the drama queen madness of its contestants (remember the “Red Hots are for my mommy” breakdown of one competitor?), The Great British Bake Off instead wisely keeps the focus on the baking itself. It helps that the contestants—from diverse backgrounds, ages, races, and genders—are genuinely supportive of each other in the kitchen. There are no verbal explosions, no thrown pots, no punched walls. The drama is left to the rising of a soufflé rather than that of tempers; disappointment is internalized rather than directed outward.

Continue reading at The Daily Beast...


Popular posts from this blog

Pilot Inspektor: CBS' "Smith"

I may just have to change my original "What I'll Be Watching This Fall" post, as I sat down and finally watched CBS' new crime drama Smith this weekend. (What? It's taken me a long time to make my way through the stack of pilot DVDs.) While it's on following Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars on Tuesday nights (10 pm ET/PT, to be exact), I'm going to be sure to leave enough room on my TiVo to make sure that I catch this compelling, amoral drama. While one can't help but be impressed by what might just be the most marquee-friendly cast in primetime--Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller, Amy Smart, Simon Baker, and Franky G all star and Shohreh Aghdashloo has a recurring role--the pilot's premise alone earned major points in my book: it's a crime drama from the point of view of the criminals, who engage in high-stakes heists. But don't be alarmed; it's nothing like NBC's short-lived Heist . Instead, think of it as The Italian

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

What's Done is Done: The Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil on the Season Finale of "Lost"

Every story begins with thread. It's up to the storyteller to determine just how much they need to parcel out, what pattern they're making, and when to cut it short and tie it off. With last night's penultimate season finale of Lost ("The Incident, Parts One and Two"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we began to see the pattern that Lindelof and Cuse have been designing towards the last five seasons of this serpentine series. And it was only fitting that the two-hour finale, which pushes us on the road to the final season of Lost , should begin with thread, a loom, and a tapestry. Would Jack follow through on his plan to detonate the island and therefore reset their lives aboard Oceanic Flight 815 ? Why did Locke want to kill Jacob? What caused The Incident? What was in the box and just what lies in the shadow of the statue? We got the answers to these in a two-hour season finale that didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop of previous season