America has “Top Chef,” the U.K has “The Great British Bake Off.”
It’s about baking.
And seriously, Brits love it.
How much? The country ground to a halt over a scandal involving an alleged dessert “sabotage” that occurred on an episode from the latest season. Contestant Iain Watters had an on-camera freak out after fellow baker Diana Beard supposedly removed his Baked Alaska from the freezer, causing it to melt. Watters was sent home, Beard accused BBC of editing the footage to make her look bad, London was in disorder for a few days.
It dominated the news cycle.
The commotion over so-called “bingate” pushed the show to it’s biggest audience ever: 10 million viewers. (That’s 1 in 6 of all British people.) And now, people in Britain can’t stop talking about it.
There is even a second TV show, An Extra Slice, whose only purpose is to dissect the highlights of the actual show from the previous evening.
Want more? Here’s an online gallery of Bake Off cakes.
The series, now in Season 5, is getting off of a strong start. Bake Off pulled in 7.2 million viewers in the current season’s opening episode, up from the 5.6 million who tuned in to watch the first episode of Season 4, according to The Guardian. And last week, it drew innearly double the number of viewers who watched England’s first soccer game, against Norway, since it lost to Brazil in the World Cup.
Other than the controversy, “The Great British Bake Off” follows the basic formula of many other reality cooking shows. Contestants fight it out in challenges that test their technical skills, creativity, and performance under time constraints designed to drive bakers to the brink — maybe even far enough to purposely vandalize a competitor’s pudding.
In each one-hour episode, contestants are tested in three different ways on one type of dessert, such as pies or tarts.
The contestants fall across a wide range of ages, too. There is an adorably nervous 17-year-old (who is an excellent baker) and an old military veteran (not quite such a good baker). So everyone has someone different to root for.
Season 5 started off with twelve. Eventually, that will be whittled down to one — and winner will be named Great British Bake Off’s Best Amateur Baker.
The star of the show is arguably English food writer Mary Berry. She’s 79, adorable, and who can deny the obvious — her last name is berry and she writes about food!
The one-hour show airs at 8 p.m. BST every Wednesday.
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