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Season 5 of the Great British Baking Show: An emotional rollercoaster

| Wednesday, September 19, 2018

If you are anything like me, you rejoiced when you saw on Aug. 31, Netflix added the fifth season “The Great British Baking Show” to its lineup. I have just recently completed the rollercoaster of emotions called season 5 (or collection 5 if you’re pretentious) and have mixed emotions, both about the season and the direction of the show. Some things were good, some were bad and some things, I’m still not sure how I feel about them. For those of you who haven’t finished, I promise I won’t reveal any spoilers (although God pity you if you thought Flo was actually going to win it).

The first major difference slapped any fan of the show right across the face: Mary Berry is gone. How could you possibly do the show without Mary Berry? That frail old woman is the heart and soul of the whole series. I couldn’t even get through the first episode at first because I was so disturbed by the change. You really think I watch to see Paul Hollywood’s frosted-tips-looking-head shove marzipan down his throat? They replaced her with a younger but still grandmother-esque judge named Prue. Prue is decidedly more critical than Mary, but she does have some funky glasses that she coordinates with her outfits, so I tolerate her. Another huge change is the two hosts have also been replaced. Honestly, I was not the biggest fan of the Sue and Mel, but I definitely did not warm up to the new hosts easily, especially Noel, who looks like Marilyn Manson and Michael Cera had a love child. Sandi is alright. I actually did some research and turns out the reason for the change is that the production studio secured a lucrative deal with another channel, but Mary Berry and the hosts admirably refused to leave BBC. Greedy as ever and the one constant on the show, Paul Hollywood, Britain’s version of Guy Fieri, cashed in so he could continue to complain about bread being underproofed and destroying the hopes and dreams of optimistic young bakers. You disgust me, Paul.

The people were not the only variation. The show is gradually changing, and it’s not something you would notice from season to season. However, if you compare the first season to the newest one, it is clear that the level of skill has gone through the roof, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. The show is supposed to feature amateur bakers who get a chance to have their work critiqued by world-renowned bakers. In season one, you could burn the outside of your filled ciabatta while the inside is completely raw, and Mary would compliment you on the “flavors” or the “idea.” Bakers would say things like, “I tried this at home once and it turned out alright, so I’m hoping it goes well today.” In this season, people are calculating volumes their bread will take up in the tin, bringing in exotic flavors (yeah, I’m sure you just found that yuzu at your local supermarket, Sophie) and defying the laws of physics with some of these elaborate pastry sculptures. Because the skill level is so high, the judging needs to be much more critical, and trust me when I say that Paul and Prue are not holding back. God help you if your ginger biscuits are not all perfectly identical and the icing lace pattern doesn’t look like it was made by the hands of Christ himself.

Not all the changes are bad. The contestants this season were actually pretty interesting and entertaining, not like the lifeless shells of human beings they had on season two. They added some new themed weeks like Caramel Week and Italian Week, which were a refreshing twist. They also do little short cutaways during a challenge where they’ll send Sandi or creepy goth eye makeup Noel to the birthplace of the baked good the contestants are making and explain its history. But at its heart, the show is more or less the same whimsical baking competition it has always been. You can’t help but be in a good mood while you’re watching this show, and I would still highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Michael Walsh


Sept. 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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