As I caught up on Bread Week earlier today, it got me thinking about the phenomenal success that The Great British Bake Off has seen since it came to our screens back in 2010.

Last year’s final was reportedly watched by 12 million viewers and was the second most watched TV show of the year, with England vs Uruguay taking the top spot – not bad for a show based around baking Mary Berry’s Viennese whirls and attempting elaborate gingerbread houses.


Sometimes when I think about what we choose to watch on TV today I can’t help but feel a little perplexed. Big Brother, EastEnders, Ex on the Beach – I can’t deny that I haven’t dabbled in these shows and sure, they can be amusing and utterly ridiculous, but I’m not sure they make us feel happy. More often than not they are encouraging us to revel in the misery and misfortunes of others. A common occurrence in today’s society – from online media to reality television shows, the most outlandish and provocative of people are paraded and showcased for our ‘entertainment’.


But The Great British Bake Off doesn’t involve heart-ache, obscenities, cheating or slander – it is simply a big tent erected somewhere in the English countryside where contestants come to bake, and as a nation we are unapologetically transfixed. It has become a weekly ritual for millions who tune in not only for the harmless baking euphemisms or to watch Paul Hollywood’s dazzling blue eyes but for the wonderful and ageless escapism it provides. It transcends the worries of today such as long working hours, tireless commutes, social media validation, breakups and relentless news stories of devastation and helps to welcome us back to a simpler, happier time.


Bake Off creator, Richard McKerrow, puts it perfectly: “Bakers are really good people. The very act of what they do is to make something for lots of other people. […] You hadn’t seen these people on TV before. They’re not cast for loud, brash personalities; they’re regular people.”


Is this the key to the Bake Off’s success then? That we as viewers find it so relatable. The contestants are people that we know: they’re grandma’s, teachers, students and gardeners. It’s a competition, yes, but it’s not spiteful. The judges aren’t rude and obnoxious, the suspense isn’t overplayed and the presenters are wonderfully witty and helpful. The dramas of the show only relate to sinking soufflés, missing custard or soggy bottoms – they are not concerned with life’s own dramas. We find ourselves rooting for our favourites, willing them to succeed and for their cakes to rise! It returns us to our kitchens and for that one short hour every Wednesday evening we are able to find some sort of comfort and joy in a world, which of late, has felt somewhat devoid of such.

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