Why ‘The Great British Baking Show’ is what reality TV really should be


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The “Great British Baking Show” (it’s “The Great British Bake Off” in the U.K.) hasn’t changed much since it began airing in 2010, but fans probably don’t mind. Sure, judge Paul Hollywood has been glaring at underperforming sponge cakes since the beginning, but his co-judge as well as the presenters have moved around (Mary Berry left and Prue Leith stepped in, and the rotation of presenters is a rabbit hole we don’t want to go down), but the basic formula has stayed the same. A bunch of amateur bakers gather together to face delicious challenges and (usually) not very detailed recipes, and the winner gets an engraved cake stand. It shouldn’t be as engaging as it is, but there you go.

'The Great British Baking Show'

While the U.S. gets credit for starting the reality competition TV show (that honor goes to “Candid Camera”), we also get blame for what reality competition TV shows have become. Richard Hatch somehow won the first season of “Survivor” with backstabbing and lies, and since then we’ve heard a stream of contestants sniff “I didn’t come here to make friends” before lowering the bar for bad behavior, whether the prize is money or a (usually short lived) commitment from a hot bachelor. It’s all endlessly entertaining, but it doesn’t say anything particularly encouraging about human behavior.

“The Great British Baking Show” never plumbs those depths, and the result is a remarkably relaxing, feel-good show (no one has ever gone crazy for a cake stand, admittedly). The contestants on the show seem to be not only friendly, but only interested in improving as bakers and making friends. It’s not uncommon to see bakers helping, not sabotaging, one another. If anyone cries over an elimination, it’s usually those who remain on the show, mourning a friend being shown the exit. 

'The Great British Baking Show'

As much as contestants claim to fear the judgment of Paul Hollywood and, to a lesser degree, Prue Leith, it’s never personal and there’s no screaming. It all seems very British and that’s to its benefit. If anyone’s truly upset, they keep it to themselves. There seems to be an understanding that this is just about baked goods, after all, and it’s more exciting to be around other, similarly passionate bakers than anything else.

If you’re looking for high-adrenaline, there are plenty of other shows to scratch that particular itch. This is as relaxing as a meditation class, and the desserts almost always look delicious. And you just might be surprised when you get caught up in the communal struggle to make gingerbread houses, no joke. Just because it’s nice doesn’t mean it’s dull.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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Featured Image Credit: Netflix.