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

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 .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BBC Culture: Matthew Weiner: Mad Men’s creator on its final episodes

The creative force behind the period drama talks about where his characters are as his show begins its final episodes. “We left off with everyone’s material needs being met in an extreme way,” says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner of where we last saw the characters on his critically acclaimed period drama when the show went on hiatus 10 months ago. “Then the issue is, what else is there?” That is the central question with the return to US TV of the AMC hit, one demanding to be answered by both the show’s characters, and its creator whose success is the envy of the television industry. Mad Men has been a defining part of Weiner’s life for the last 15 years. He wrote the pilot script on spec while he was a staff writer on CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 1999, using it to land a writing gig on HBO’s The Sopranos in 2002. It would take another five years, filled with multiple rejections, before the first episode of Mad Men would make it on the air. Someone with less determination or vision