Today, The Great British Baking Show makes its triumphant return to American shores with the Season 3 premiere on PBS. Known as The Great British Bake Off (or simply GBBO) in the UK, this reality baking competition is one of the BBC’s most-watched television series. Now, American viewers can enjoy the trappings of celebrity chef Paul Hollywood, the subtle charm of food writer Mary Berry, and the sensational innuendo concocted by co-hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.
The premise is simple: 12 amateur bakers from all over the UK test their baking prowess with a weekly assigned theme. Each baker is judged based on their results from three challenges: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. After nine rounds, three contestants compete in the finale. Now, GBBO may be a reality cooking competition, but don’t get us wrong: It’s no Kitchen Nightmares. Contestants tend to work with — not against — each other among pastel-colored mixers in the middle of an English garden. And they’re charming AF. There’s no backstabbing here, no megalomaniac hurling insults at contestants; in fact, everyone is so well-behaved, you’d think there wasn’t anything at stake. Still, the passion is all there, as is the competitive drive to come out on top. It is, as one co-worker put it, the “Game of Thrones of British home bakers.”
Before the new season premieres on July 1, let’s look at the reasons why we cannot stop watching The Great British Baking Show.
Co-Judge Mary Berry Makes Us Cry Every Time
Mary Berry is a successful food writer and chef who has written over 70 cookbooks in her lifetime. (That’s like, one book for every year she’s been alive.) She also happens to be a very sweet old lady who, like your grandma, needs you to explain how stuff like the internet works every once in awhile. Take for instance, the time Mary Berry was faced with an unusual ingredient: hemp flour. Co-host Sue had to very gently explain its origins:
All the Insane Technical Challenges
Technical challenges in the GBBO feature some of the most obscure baked goods in the world. Ever heard of a Charlotte Royale? Choux Buns Religieuse? How about a Kouign-amann? Tennis cake? Well, neither have most of the contestants. The technical can probably be considered the most nerve-wracking out of all the challenges: Bakers are given limited instructions, everyone has to make the same product (so you can really tell when someone screwed up), and the judges hold a blind taste test in the end.
Chronic RBF From Contestants Like Ruby Tandoh
Baking is difficult. It can be a messy business that requires precision, patience, and concentration. People in real life aren’t concerned with looking camera-ready while they bake, so most of us can relate to a contestant who doesn’t play it up to the cameras. Exhibit A: 2013 GBBO finalist and ethnically ambiguous food writer Ruby Tandoh. Aside from being the youngest contestant in Series 4 and a runner-up, Ruby was known for her plethora of facial expressions (which mostly feel in the range of RBF). At any point while working on her recipes, she can be seen frowning, furrowing her brows, scowling maniacally, and looking generally annoyed. Don’t ask her if something’s the matter: That’s just how her face looks.
Mel and Sue’s Blazers
English comedy act Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins co-host GBBO as well as provide necessary humor for the oft-stressed contestants. Other than taste-testing ingredients and making dirty, dirty jokes (more on that later), they also announce the winners and losers of each episode, all while sporting blazers in complementary colors. Their comedy act, plus the way they genuinely care about the contestants, is just one of the reasons we keep coming back.
Controversies Like the Baked Alaska Fiasco
Poor, sweet Iain Watters. Who can forget the Baked Alaska challenge from Series 5? Dubbed #bingate, the bakers were tasked with creating a Baked Alaska (AKA ice cream cake) in 30c weather, which I had to look up in Fahrenheit because I am a red-blooded AMERICAN. Basically, the weather in the tent was less than ideal for Baked Alaska makin’. Another contestant–Diana Beard—allegedly removed Iain’s ice cream from the freezer on purpose. Neither realized it had been sitting out for so long. Then, the worst: Iain’s ice cream melted, and in a moment of frustration, he threw his entire creation into the bin.
The Twitterverse was furious:
That is the most emotion I’ve felt watching TV in ages. The PURE HATE you would feel for the person who sabotaged your Baked Alaska #gbbo
— Helen Lewis (@helenlewis) August 27, 2014
When I find myself judging One Direction fans for being so emotionally invested in a boy band I remember the #GBBO Baked Alaska drama.
— Onna (@OnnasLittleBlog) August 26, 2015
What culminated after the fiasco? Iain was eliminated for not having anything to present, and Diana mysteriously never returned to the competition. ESCÁNDALO!
This NSFW Squirrel
Filmed at Welford Park in Berkshire, not only does GBBO feature baked goods, but all the wildlife the pleasant English countryside has to offer. In particular, viewers of the show quite literally went nuts at this B-roll of a squirrel frolicking on the grounds. They are cheeky, those GBBO producers. Speaking of…
All the Sexual Innuendo
Ah, dirty jokes about food! GBBO is a family friendly show, despite all of the vulgar jokes being thrown about. Take heart; the beauty of these jokes is that your five-year-old will never understand why you’re laughing at an openly-gay woman claiming she’s never eaten a nun before. These are mostly supplied by Mel and Sue, whose food puns turn up the heat:
Paul Hollywood’s Tan
Master bread maker and resident GBBO grump Paul Hollywood isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. He’s almost always got a raised brow and a sheepish grin, silently judging the contestants’ choices before they’ve even finished baking. He’s also known for his incredible knowledge of baking and no-nonsense attitude… and for having the best tan on GBBO – HANDS DOWN.
We’ll be reviewing episodes of the third season of The Great British Baking Show, so stay tuned. Catch the season premiere July 1 on PBS.