It’s 10:10pm on a Monday evening and I, along with approximately 12 million 59-year-olds, am fully immersed in what is perhaps the most charming corner of Netflix. Yes, I’m talking about the pun-laden, frangipane-filled, toothache-inducing dream that is The Great British Baking Show. This televised baking competition has undoubtedly captured the hearts of both Brits and Americans alike, and for good reason. If you live in the United Kingdom, you’ve been lucky enough to have seen all six seasons (where BBC broadcasts the show under the title The Great British Bake Off). If you’re like me, however, you found out through a friend sometime over the last month that there were two new seasons out on Netflix, a 200% increase from the previous solitary season. Coincidentally, his information hit you the week before your midterm exams started. Placing my whimpering academic anxiety on the back burner, I wholeheartedly leapt into the sea of nearly-set crème pâtissière.
This said, TGBBS remains one of the few shows that truly and completely relaxes me and allows me to recharge before resurfacing into the flurry of academia. Although my friends might disagree (and would usually prefer to watch some variation of Planet Earth, Planet Earth 2, or The Blue Planet) (which you should also go watch), I find the combination of English countryside, exquisite pastries, and Mary Berry’s honeyed voice to be truly cathartic.
If you haven’t seen it already, here are some of the main reasons why The Great British Baking Show is truly Great:
- The puns and innuendos. So many, in fact, that the show has even garnered a bit of backlash from viewers who claim that the show’s double entendres have become unnecessarily “smuttier and smuttier.” As someone with no small children to worry about, and as an English major who always appreciates a well-timed pun, I say they can stay. Here’s a list of the 28 best ones.
- The hosts. Relentless in their humor and sass, Sue Perkins and Mel Gierdroyc are not only fun – but fierce. When it was announced that TGBBS would be moving to Channel 4 from the BBC, both Perkins and Gierdroyc decided not to follow the show to the new network, saying that despite the substantial monetary benefits, it was “the right thing to do.” In addition, Sue Perkins has spoken out loudly about her sexuality, discussing in-depth her identification as gay and the common struggle to recognize the fluidity of that identification.
- The accents. The panning shots of sheep and English countryside. Endless rain.All self-explanatory.
- Ruby Tandoh. Kimberley Wilson. Nadiya Hussain. AHH!Not only are all of these women incredible bakers, but they respectively represent some of the youngest, most outspoken, and most endearing bakers on the show.Ruby Tandoh, who I (and the rest of the people down the hall) admittedly had a crush on, was a university student in Philosophy and Art History at the time of filming, and regularly showed up to the baking tent wearing scuffed Converse sneakers and bearing her modest, intelligent, and pensive attitude. Her actions deserve everything but modesty, however, and not only did she juggle both her schoolwork and the competition, but has since gone on to become a published author and a food writer for The Guardian. Since the end of the show, she has spoken out about her own bisexuality, about mental health and well-being, and has published numerous comments on the move from BBC to Channel 4, most notably her fiery tweets directed at Paul Hollywood, who decided to follow the show to Channel 4.Kimberley Wilson also competed in Ruby’s season, and charmed audiences with her confidence and positivity. Wilson works as a psychologist, and regularly tweets and writes about how food affects mental health and vice versa. Wilson has also been similarly unafraid to speak out about her issues with the show’s production, which, like most things, has flaws which deserve to be talked about.
Nadiya Hussain, from the sixth season (or third on Netflix) was another favorite of mine, and remains the only contestant to have worn a hijab on the show. Since the show, Hussain has risen to immense popularity in the UK, and will have her own BBC spin-off The Chronicles of Nadiya which will explore many aspects of her life and cooking, including her roots in Luton and her ancestral home in rural Bangladesh.
- Mary Berry. Loved by foodies, chefs, and faithful viewers both across the pond and on the shore, Mary Berry is truly the kind grandmother hen of The Great British Baking Show. With her wise demeanor and perky blazers, she brings both expertise (she has published more than 75 cook books, including her Baking Bible) and personality to the show. Recently, she’s been creating hubbub in the blogosphere about the fact that she’s never ordered a takeout pizza.
- How peaceful the show is. As I mentioned above, this is one of the few Netflix shows that truly calms me down and, without a doubt, the only food competition. Nobody yells at each other! There are no petty “ha!” moments, or even hints of resentment! The timers are set for long, reasonable periods of time! 4 hours! Overnight, even!On top of all of this, the show maintains uniformity and predictability. There are never random, chaotic challenges, and the show chooses to set the contestants up for success by providing them with the necessary planning time and supplies to perfect their bakes. In sharp contrast to modern cooking shows that pit contestants against each other, TGBBS instead highlights the strengths of each baker. Sometimes the bakers even help each other out in moments of dire need. The result is a show that feels wholesome and warm, and one that leaves you on the brink of tears as each contestant gradually gets eliminated.
- It makes you wanna cook. Perhaps the most pertinent reason, seeing as over the last 48 hours I have: concocted a blueberry pear crisp, baked a loaf of challah bread, cooked a veggie stew, whipped up a cake, and figured out a recipe for vegan taquitos. While it may not be great for my bank account or my physical health, I firmly believe that this can be excused by what baking does for my mental health.
And so, as I take a bite out of the lemon cranberry bundt cake that I baked last night in that moment of television-induced inspiration and stare at the fresh grocery bag full of flour and sugar, I am fully aware of the effects this show has had upon me. Ultimately, I think I’m okay with it.
This post was edited & also published on Buzzfeed on March 14, 2017.