The Great British Bake Off

A week has passed since the final of The Great British Bake Off and the sugar high has just about worn off. So, was Brendan robbed? Should consistency win over a stunning last minute performance? Was John’s mangled hand a strategic bit of self-sabotage to avoid a negative judgement? Was James punished for his ‘by the seat of his pants’ approach?

This, the most gentle of British competitions ended with some controversy this week for some of its most ardent fans. The Great British Bake Off sense of fair play was challenged when the consistently excellent, quiet and self-effacing contestant Brendan failed to win the competition. The prize this year was taken by the dark horse outsider John who beat both cool calm Brendan and hipster maverick John. This may stem from a personal bias as John hails from my home town but it’s hard to begrudge him the title. Modest and full of self-deprecating humour, John charmed throughout the series – we sympathised when things went wrong and shared the joy of his success. Success that appeared to surprise him as much as the audience at times. But this is, perhaps, the problem with The Great British Bake Off. Everyone is so nice, it’s hard to see anyone loose.

I came late to the show (apart from viewing The Great British Bake Off squirrel on YouTube like so many others of course) and this has been my first year experiencing the joys of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and the return of the 90s pairing of Mel and Sue. Before watching I must admit I couldn’t see the appeal and, if I’m honest, I had had a wee bit if disdain for the format but watched it as one of my students is about to start a project on cookery shows. I thought that, as this was the most successful cookery show on the BBC I should know precisely what I’d been turning my nose up at! One episode led to an I-player catch up binge and within a week the programme had become a firm favourite and each episode was eagerly anticipated.

The Great British Bake Off is a nostalgic programme that taps into myths about our national identity. This, perhaps, goes some way to explain its extraordinary success. This notion of a national identity based on fair play and a stoic resilience in the face of adversity has been the focus of a three part documentary on BBC4. Ian Hislop’s fascinating history of British emotions Stiff Upper Lip gives a real insight into the appeal of The Great British Bake Off. When all around are emoting like there’s no tomorrow – when emotional journeys are as important (if not more so) than musical talent (The X Factor); when emotional outbursts replace decision making and, subsequently, good judgement (Geordie Shore) then the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ approach of The Great British Bake Off is an oasis of reserve and there’s clearly still an audience for that.


‘Contact Us’ to order an AlbionMill Mini info-sheet on The Great British Bake Off.

The info sheet looks at the audience pleasures provided by the programme including its position within the competitive reality show genre; its relationship with British identity and the cultural and historical context of the show.

This photocopiable resource is just £7.00 – see the Teacher Area for more information and free samples of resources.


And Finally…

Follow the link below and scroll down the page to view MyView… a ‘review’ of The Great British Bake Off written by Peter Shilton who The Sun describes as ‘legendary goal keeper’. How limited do The Sun think their audience are? 6.5 million people watched the BBC show but apparently The Sun believes its audience to be so Neanderthal that they may not be able to see the appeal of the programme unless its filtered through the simplistic response of an ex football player. Is this the very definition of dumbing down?



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