Harvey: A Love Letter to ‘The Great British Baking Show’

The Great British Baking Show is a competitive baking show, all without the cut-throat energy of traditional cooking competitions.

Netflix

The Great British Baking Show is a competitive baking show, all without the cut-throat energy of traditional cooking competitions.

By Sebastian Harvey, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

When summer turns into fall, the nights start to cool and the loud orchestra of cicadas, frogs and crickets come to a close, a new act starts. Accompanied by the vibrant, green (and rainy) English spring, a meringue-shaped tent springs from the ground. It’s time for “The Great British Baking Show,” a cooking competition where 12 contestants bake over 10 weeks to win a grand prize of… a cake stand.

Why is there such a fuss over it? Much of the magic of the “The Great British Baking Show” is its non-competitive atmosphere. Similar shows, such as “Project Runway,” “Chopped,” “Master Chef and “Blown Away,hand out large sums of money for the winners, but this creates a stressful, high-stakes atmosphere. Although “The Great British Baking Show” is filled with stress, it is largely in the process of cooking rather than in the stakes themselves. Instead of wishing failure upon their competitors, bakers help each other in times of struggle. The stakes of the show come from the anxiety of producing the best bake possible, not the pressure of thousands of dollars on the line. 

As the show develops, viewers become more attached to the bakers, with each getting more screen time after other competitors start getting eliminated. Unknown contestants become fascinating, quirky characters with diverse backstories. Chigs, a baker in the previous season, started off as an inexperienced, quiet character. Slowly, viewers began to learn about his story: During the pandemic, he learned how to bake through watching videos online. He grew in confidence throughout the season, producing increasingly impressive bakes. 

There are dozens of examples similar to Chigs’. There’s Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant inspired by wonderful medleys of Italian flavors, and Kim Joy, a quirky, lovable baker fascinated by all things cute. A reason for the sheer amount of these examples is the diverse group of bakers under the tent. A common misconception with baking is it’s predominantly done by older women. The Great British Baking Show” casts bakers who largely represent the United Kingdom’s populace — diverse in race, sexual orientation and age. This creates a kaleidoscope of bakes, taking influences from diverse communities of peoples. All these things give the show a fresh look season after season. 

Something about baking makes it a perfect medium for a TV show like this. Baking is an art, requiring technique, skill and smarts. Although baking is often associated with relaxation, difficult time constraints create a high-tempo finish to every challenge. Watching the final product makes the journey worth it. Memorable bakes stick out in the memory — a lion’s head shaped by sourdough breads, a soda can suspended above a cheesecake and a magnificent peacock are a drop in the ocean of wonderful bakes. 

Despite the show’s delight, “The Great British Baking Show” may not be for everyone. The episodes are an hour long, and many people don’t have enough time to invest in that. It’s also not very bingeable. Much of “The Great British Baking Show” is its ritual; the show is made to be watched once a week. It’s not designed to be watched through quickly; the show can be slow, and there isn’t always a need to keep on watching. This is not a show for high stakes and drama, but it still provides quality entertainment. With the new season just starting, “The Great British Baking Show” is a great watch right now. 

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on October 19, 2022.