Archive for October, 2015

The Great British Baking Show: Pure, Sweet Love

Friday, October 16th, 2015

It’s mid-October, and I’m only now getting to my monthly entry. Yes, my work situation amounts to a non-stop effort to stem the tide (about which: It’s surprising how much energy it takes to always be saying no), but also, I’ve been wanting to write in praise of something, and my culture consumption in the last couple of weeks hadn’t offered much by way of yay.

Until: The Great British Baking Show came to Netflix! This confection, as has been pointed out by countless others, is sheer delight—from the bucolic (and gorgeously manicured) country setting with its adorable splices of baby farm animals (not technically on the grounds, as far as I can tell; hence sheer pandering to the likes of moi) to the perfectly balanced palate of pastels (all the way up to the KitchenAid mixers!) to the nigh-Shakespearean doofus-clowning of the co-hosts (one of whose pants are always falling down, which nobody seems to bother about) to the sweetly humble and collaborative spirit of the participants, who won’t say a single bad word about anyone else. This thing goes down as smoothly and deliciously as chocolate tofu pie.

One of the many things I am always lamenting about even quality reality television (which as a competitive person I am predisposed to like) is producers’ seeming inability to understand that it’s fun to watch nice people get along. Even on Top Chef, which I appreciate for its seriousness about food and for the real talent it cultivates and promotes, there is almost always a villain or two, and in the talking heads you get the impression that the contestants are being goaded to trash-talk their peers.

In TGBBS, there’s a spirit of camaraderie and appreciation that feels like a giant gulp of fresh air into which we can at long last relax. It’s surprising, too—especially given my personal taste for psychology—how good it feels not to know much about anyone’s personal life. The point is baking, and baking is what happens.

(I’m sure it’s very relevant that the show is filmed on weekends; the contestants go home—and sleep, and practice—during the week. So they’re not suffering from the devastating cumulative of effects of several ceaseless weeks of intense competition, a la the folks on Top Chef.)

I love, too, that the challenges seems to include enough time to get good work done. They’re short enough to pressure the contestants to work efficiently, but they’re not so insane as to prevent success (Project Runway, which I stopped watching many years ago now, suffers from this problem). I’m also hugely fond of the technical challenge, which has all the contestants doing exactly the same (difficult) thing: It’s not only a brilliant way to get an apples-to-apples comparison of what the contestants can do; it’s also a satisfying mystery (or at least, an exercise in dramatic irony), since the contestants usually haven’t even seen a finished version of what they’re making and therefore aren’t at all sure what it’s supposed to end up looking like. Fun.

All of which amounts to: This show is immensely soothing to the nervous system. And John will watch it with me! Because it’s sweet and not back-bitey! Double yay!

Happy weekend, everyone!