So the Battenberg is being packed away, the soggy bottoms are getting wrapped in cling film, Mary is being cryogenically frozen to prevent the horrors of 2016 coming near and this years Bake Off is ending, being sent off on its magical mystery tour to Channel 4. For a lot of fans of the show like me this might feel like the end of an era but fear not, Bake Off has actually managed to do something tactically masterful, albeit by accident, it has completed a Father Ted, an IT Crowd, an Office. It has ended in its prime. It has finished its run in the current format at the top of its game so it will never be able to go stale.
Channel 4 might not be the wholesome heartwarming hug of a TV channel that BBC One has the reputation of being but with Richard Ayoade looking to be the new presenter and the likes of Delia being thrown around as a possibility for a new judge maybe the show’s new home will bring a fresh take with the same roots as Bake Off but with a new twist. What I really hope Channel 4 don’t do is change nothing. When a show is remade with new actors and the writing doesn’t change things don’t work. Look at the US versions of The Inbetweeners or The IT Crowd, if you want it to work you’ve got to make it your own. I amn’t saying start from scratch here but just accept that what the BBC have done with Bake Off is unmatchable. The cast is too perfect, the jokes too fitting, what Channel 4 need to do is make a new Bake Off, one with the successful core of the original but with enough changes that it doesn’t just feel like a bad remake. Let the new cast do what they’re good at, not what Mel and Sue were good at. Obviously this is a big ask but that is exactly what Channel 4 signed up for. To keep Bake Off the cornerstone of entertainment it is in Britain it needs to be new and fresh and different but to keep the spark old Bake Off had that made it so loved.
What I think had made BBC Bake Off so successful to me is that you wanted everyone to do well. There was no villain, no sob story, no joke act, everyone was nice to each other, everyone was a real person. They were just like your uncle or grandma or cousin or the woman across the street or the guy from work. They weren’t so distant in their relation to reality as so many other talent show contestants were and during the whole Bake Off process they were getting on with their lives; who can forget James not being able to practice his gingerbread barn because of his medical exams. The way that Bake Off allowed the contestants to be people you could actually relate to meant that when things went wrong for them you would be upset too. When they were tense about whether their bread would rise the audience would be right there with them. There was no dramatic lights or prolonged silences, there was no millionaire judges mansions and fame constantly dangled in front of their face. As far as I could tell there wasn’t even really a prize because that wasn’t what mattered with Bake Off. There was just real people enjoying themselves, trying their best and getting on with it, just like everyone watching.
I really hope that with the shift to Channel 4 this realness doesn’t leave the show, the heart of Bake Off is the contestants and that’s what it should always be. The host can change, the bakes can get tougher, the theme music can become a death metal ballad for all I care, the thing I just don’t want Bake Off to lose, is the people.