Ryan said: I guess you know not all of your constituents watch shows. I said: Pfffff. Not all of them read books either, and I keep talking about them. So if this is not your cup of tea, you may rebuke me but please don’t hang me. I don’t want him proved right.
Confession: Sometimes I like watching shows after my children are tucked in bed for night. Though it’s a medium that brings me a lot of joy, especially when I need to lose myself for a few minutes and I feel too tired for a good book or a writing project, it can be hard finding clean ones that are worth watching. Sometimes I’ve loved a show (Call the Midwife – for the first three seasons) only to have it disintegrate into pop issues and edginess.
This summer, I discovered The Great British Baking Show, put out by PBS.
In each season, twelve of Britain’s best amateur bakers meet to compete in a cooking tent for ten weekends. Every weekend, the bakers are set three timed challenges: a Signature Bake, a Technical Challenge, and a Showstopper. In the Signature, they may be asked, for example, to make a layer cake. Within certain parameters, the recipes, flavors, and decorations are their own creation, practiced at home. In the Technical, a surprise recipe is placed before them, with minimal instructions – so all twelve bakers are making the same thing, which turns out uh… surprisingly diverse. In the Showstopper, their creativity is again unleashed on a flamboyant bake with specific requirements – such as a wedding cake or a freestanding cookie tower.
Two judges, the incomparable Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, taste and rate their concoctions, offering slap-honest judgment that makes me laugh, wince, and cheer.
But here’s the catch: Each weekend, one contestant is named Star Baker, and one must go home. The remaining eleven meet the next weekend, and so on… until there are only three bakers remaining, and one grand winner is announced at a final taste-test party to which their immediate families and all the previous bakers are invited.
I find it extremely addicting. The episodes are short (50-60 minutes), the British accents are charming, and the personalities are wonderful. You start getting to know the people and cheering for your favorites. My husband is not a baker, but he’ll watch it with me for the fun of wagering on who’s going home this weekend, and the joy of the people, and our laughing together over all the baking flops and Mr. Hollywood’s perfect judging.
The Great British Baking Show is available on Netflix. I think you’ll like it. No one is paying me to tell you this.