STICK A FORK IN IT: How The Cake Reality Show Genre Went Stale

cake reality

In the still-short history of reality TV, there haven’t been 14 reality series about politics. Or sports. Or even fashion.

But there have been 14 reality shows about cake.

It’s officially the most oversaturated genre in reality television.

Besides helping to strengthen the connection between television and America’s obesity epidemic, what have these programs accomplished?

Not too much: they’ve minted a few reality celebrities and left the rest of the hopefuls in the (flour) dust. Ratings are far from consistently strong across the genre.

And yet producers haven’t grown weary of sugar — still more shows are on the way.

Goldman and his Baltimore-based shop, Charm City Cakes, put baking docs on the reality map in 2006. Ratings were strong until the show was canceled in late 2010 -- its tenth and final season ran in early 2011.

Next came WETV's wedding-flavored and (pretty boring) show.

'Amazing Wedding Cakes' premiered on WETV in 2009 as part of a nuptials-themed block that includes 'Bridezillas.'

Four seasons in, it's never going to be a ratings juggernaut -- or spawn any dynamic personalities, since the 'characters' are particularly weak (this just means 'normal'). But it keeps the Sunday-night wedding-obsessed audience in place for the cable channel.

The California bakery of Brenda and Mary Maher, who have starred on the show since the beginning, was destroyed in a 2010 fire. Their rebuilding effort could provide long-term drama for the show.

It's likely that Valastro -- the owner of Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, N.J. -- will be the last star standing in this genre. His show cleverly combines cake porn with Jersey-Italian family fireworks -- and it's been a consistent winner for TLC since its 2009 debut.

Contestants are pitted against each other in challenges that aim for the same sort of over-the-top, design-focused cakes that star on 'Cake Boss.'

'Cake Off' has performed consistently for TLC, but it might not have without 'Boss' to prop it up.

In 2010, on the heels of Valastro's success, TLC launched a series that aimed to profile a different trendy bakery in each episode.

It never really took hold -- perhaps because of the lack of character consistency -- and has been moved around the programming schedule four times.

The mini-baking competition has done good business for Food Network, which in just one year managed to tape three 'Cupcake Wars' seasons (the show premiered in June 2010). The third season begins tonight.

A second season of the docuseries about the co-owners of Georgetown Cupcake has yet to be slated -- but the fact that the bakers are bringing their business to Manhattan ought to help that effort along.

'Girls' made barely a blip on the genre, possibly because it partially focuses on franchising (which is much less fun than straight-up icing). The show follows the co-owners of a Canadian bakery called the most forgettable thing imaginable -- Cupcakes. No wonder viewers haven't grown attached.

Food Network commissioned a reality show on travelling baker Ashley Vicos, but then buried it on the schedule.

Vicos crisscrosses the country, making event cakes for Mardi Gras and Fashion Week -- but Food Network hasn't shown much faith in their decision to put her on TV.

'Have Cake, Will Travel' airs at 11 p.m. on Mondays -- when it's not filling out the overnight grid.

Instead, Food Network made an unimaginative return to the format it's found its cake niche with: the baking battle.

'Last Cake Standing,' which launched this year, is all but indiscernible from other cake contest shows -- but it works for Food Network's competition-hungry audience.

'Staten Island Cakes' follows the workday of a 21-year-old pastry chef. It premieres June 21.

Another trendy tie-in: the vegan movement.

Animal Planet -- who presumably has no business airing cake TV -- just commissioned 'Sweet Avenger,' a reality series on the Pennsylvania bakeshop Vegan Treats, which has a solid celebrity clientele.

And the biggest sign that cake and cupcakes are played out? Somebody's willing to try a show on cookies.

Food Network recently announced a reality show on Crazy Susan's Cookie Company in Ocean City, N.J. It's billed as family-bakery drama set on the Jersey Shore -- so, yeah, it pretty much hits all the marks.

Now check out the Tony winners destined for the big screen.

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