This year, The Great British Bake Off relocates from BBC One to Channel 4, where it does not belong. It’s like finding your grandmother in the middle of an all-night rave. Channel 4 is political, radical, in-your-face; Bake Off is about baking cakes. Channel 4 has tried to replicate the old recipe precisely but, strangely, that only emphasises what a dreadful concoction it was to begin with.
I hate this show. Hate, hate, hate it. Forced to choose between this and death, I’d gladly stick my head in a tumble dryer. It’s so fake. The pristine marquee on a neat lawn. The contestants from every corner of Britain. In the first minute of the first episode, a baker announces that she is a lesbian. Why? Are the producers worried that those Northern Irish Christians have associated baking in the popular imagination with homophobia, and this – Hallelujah – is the moment that cookery finally comes out of the closet? Before we have time to think this through, the hosts land perfectly on the grass in a hot-air balloon. That’s how they travel in whimsyland – over the peaks of the butter mountains through clouds of candied sugar.
When I first heard that Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding were Channel 4’s pick of presenters, I misheard it as Sandi Toksvig and Noele Gordon, the actress who played Meg Mortimer in Crossroads, which I thought sounded rather good – because Gordon was a marvellous old dragon who wouldn’t be afraid to tell the men that it’s unmanly to bake and the women that they’re too boring to be on TV.
But it’s not Gordon, it’s Fielding. Noel Fielding, a lanky alternative comedian, is the only thing Channel 4-ish about this venture and, to his credit, the only thing that redeems it. If Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off is your granny at a rave, then Noel is the rave. He looks as high as a balloon. Occasionally, he seems to be asking himself: “What the hell is going on? Why is that old lady making a cake in the shape of a watermelon?” I don’t know, Noel. I don’t care. Off goes the TV set.
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