You may be aware of people being obsessed with this show, and you may be wondering why. When I first checked it out - I didn't quite understand why this one particular baking competition had captured the hearts of so many. There's like a bazillion other cooking comps out there, what makes this one stand out?
Aside from the fact that this is one show that has me vocally "oohing" and "aahing" (not only over the baked goods, but also the hobbies of the contestants which include personal bucket-list items such as beekeeping, gardening, and being retired), there is a lot of (un?)intentional humor that makes this a perfect way to relax, laugh, and enjoy yourself.
Let me break down why I personally find this show is a great way to spoil yourself via some good old fashion viewing pleasure:
1) The Judges: The judges include a piercing blue-eyed man named Paul Hollywood and a pleasant and proper Mary Berry. With names like these - you know the shows going to be good. Paul absolutely cracks me up - his intimidating vibe, his hard to read poker faces, and the looks and questions he gives the contestants when they visit each of the bakers to see what they're up to. I'm not sure what his baking credentials are, but it's clear his approval is the true prize of the show. A handshake from Paul after he eats your baked good is apparently one of the ultimate signs that you can die happy. Literally: a handshake. This infamous handshake, an otherwise seemingly normal part of everyday societal interactions, elicits an inordinate amount of glee and sometimes even applause from the entire room.
Not only this but Paul has this devilish smirk that gives away his sheer joy in the menacing effect he has over the contestants. He loves making the bakers squirm in the most innocently proper way possible, and I admit that I love watching it. Am I evil to laugh at the suffering of others? No, because it's baking and it's funny. I urge you to join me.
2) The Technical Bake: The technical challenge is where the judges select a recipe for the bakers to tackle. The bakers don't know what they are making until right before the challenge is revealed, and have often never heard of or even seen what the baked good is supposed to taste or look like.
After the challenge is announced, the judges go to the garden where they sit with a model example of the technical bake and go over why they chose this particular bake, and the difficulties of the challenge. Sounds innocent enough - they are completely civil and matter-of-fact - but if you look a little deeper at what is actually going on, it's pretty hilarious. See, while the judges sit amongst their lovely tea party-esque decor they are actually plotting to make the bakers lives as difficult as possible. Outwardly they seem prim and proper, but inside they cackle like Cinderella's step-mother giving impossible tasks that are ripe for mistakes that could ruin the final product. They KNOW what exactly is going to trip up most of these bakers or make the challenge so hard. Then you see the bakers falling for the very traps set by the judges. It really has you by the edge of the seat as you cheer the bakers on while they do the mental gymnastics required to figure out the brain-teaser puzzles in the form of the recipe.
Then despite knowing this would be difficult, they show no signs of sympathy or mercy during judging. They carefully go one by one down a long table to blindly taste and judge each bakers creations. The bakers sit in a row of stools to anxiously observe and hang onto every look and word from the judges. Paul and Mary examine each one on multiple criteria, like once there was a layer type cake they were making that was supposed to have 18 layers or something - and Paul goes and counts each thin layer of each cake to see if they have the correct number of layers. He lets the bakers know that nothing is getting past him - and it's true, very little does get past our eagle-eyed judges.
Despite all the stress and anxiety the bakers have faced, there is humor in the facade of disappointment the judges vocalize to the terrified innocent amateur bakers awaiting judgment on something the judges knew would trip them up in the first place. Don't worry bakers, I am still very much impressed with your valiant efforts and see the true colors of the judges!
3) The Bakers: There is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and support in the baker's tent, with the bakers helping each other and being kind to each other despite the cut-throat competition they face each week. Their ability to remain kind to each other despite being stressed the f-out of their minds is genuinely endearing and gives us a chance to really enjoy the personalities and quirks of the bakers. There's the silly lady who during a technical challenge when they need to put a cake back into the oven for a second bake, proclaims "the instructions don't mention taking it off the cake stand!" and then proceeds to place the unnecessarily added height of cake + cake stand into the oven. She later exclaims "this cake stand is HOT!" Afterwards, she tries to stuff the top meringue portion of her cake into an obviously too narrow space which partially smashes part of her meringue. Oops!
Or the young man who proclaims that a french classic leaf-shaped bread called "Fougasse" is "actually my cinema snack". The ability to live vicariously through these bakers lives gives me a sense of joy and elegance I had never before imagined. It inspires me to up my own cinema snack game because why not? I deserve it!
Conclusion: The Great British Baking Show puts the "Chill" in "Netflix and Chill". It's a refreshing change of pace from other competition/reality shows that involve unnecessary interpersonal dramas and egos. This is a truly innocent and delightful foray into a magical tent set in the middle of a picturesque landscape with little ducklings wandering about while ten everyday people take their love of baking to new heights. The drama is there - but its pure and decent - and as serious as the bakers are in the moment of these intense bakes and the turmoil over how long the dough needs to prove or creating a smooth caramel - at the end of the day it's a lighthearted and unique experience that each person seems grateful to be a part of.
And all of the above is why I share this show with you - because this is definitely an enjoyable way to take a break from the real world of traffic and bills and escape into a blissful world of sweets and warmth. So grab yourself a fougasse and see for yourself. Ready....set....bake!