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Bake Off Team

The Classic Bake Off team. L-R Sue Perkins, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and Mel Giedroyc

In early September Britain was rocked not just by rising prices and the decimation of the value of Sterling, but by the news that ‘The Great British Bake Off’ was to move from BBC to Channel Four.

What started as a bit of a coup for C4 soon became more of a nightmare, the audience was not pleased, hosts Mel and Sue said they would not move to C4, Judge Mary Berry likewise said she wouldn’t “Follow the Dough”. Effectivly leaving C4 with a concept, title, tent and Paul Hollywood. The judge the fans love to hate.

Rumours that Hollywood might be joined by 2015 champion Nadiya Hussain were scotched when Hussain signed an exclusive deal with the BBC. It is the same story with everyone whos name has been linked to the C4 show. No one wants to sign up for what could be the biggest disaster on British TV since ‘Honey for Tea’¹.

‘Bake off’ has no business causing all this fuss. ‘Bake Off’ is a fluke, it is a show where people make cakes in a tent. The person whose cakes are not so good each week leaves and eventually the best baker is crowned. Basically that is it. So why has ‘Bake Off’ become the biggest show on TV?

No one really knows, is it the dynamic?

Short answer yes, the Sport/Comic Relief versions stripped of Mel and Sue were certainly not as good, the professionals spin off series with none of the regulars was panned while the Sewing and Pottery versions have failed to capture the public’s imagination. ‘Bake Off’ is a case of all the pieces, or should that be ingredients, being in the right place at the right time.

International versions of ‘Bake Off’ have all failed to replicate the success of the original. The first US version in 2013 even took Paul Hollywood, but was a flop. Of the rest only the Dutch version ‘Heel Holland Bakt’ has been moderately successful.

There are rumours that the BBC will create a rival to the C4 version of ‘Bake Off’ perhaps even a head to head challenge. ‘Bake Off’ borrows heavily from ‘Masterchef’ in format, so it would be easy for the BBC to create a show based around baking skills, with Mel, Sue and Mary, that would be close but no cigar version of the ‘Bake Off’ format but close with cigarillo to it’s intellectual property ‘Masterchef’ negating any legal challenges.

The one thing that will have to go is the tent. The original idea was that it was filmed in the tent to make it look like an English Summer Fete. However the tent has caused more than its fair share of problems, many bakers over the series run have been eliminated due to the effects of humidity inside the tent on their bakes. If it’s raining outside with hot TV lights inside it is perfect conditions for a soggy bottom.

But the BBC could have a replacement up and running before C4, who aim to start their new ‘Bake Off’ with celebrity specials in 2017 and a full series in 2018. Conceivably Aunty Beeb could be ready with a new series by summer 2017, and the BBC do need to replace ‘Bake Off’ as their other prime time reality show ‘The Apprentice’ is running low on ratings and looks set for cancellation.

C4 may have the name, Hollywood and the tent, but it seems C4 ‘Bake Off’ is being seen as a poison chalice, or is that poison cassata, lots of presenters and cooks have been linked with the show but almost all have said they couldn’t replace the previous hosts. Only Claudia Winkleman, the host of sister show ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, has declined to comment fuelling speculation that her decision to stand down from hosting ‘Film…’ was to facilitate a move to C4 and ‘Bake Off’. It also seems that so far C4 don’t have anywhere to pitch the tent.

The ‘Bake Off’ situation will divide viewers, and it is hard to see either a BBC off brand version or the C4 version keeping the high ratings of the original. One thing is for certain like the rise of Leicester City and the triumph of failure that is ‘The Room’ sooner or later someone will make a film of the Rise and Fall of ‘Bake Off’.

¹1994 sit com starring Felicity Kendal.

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