National Trust houses, red post-boxes, fish and chips at the seaside, William Shakespeare, the Queen. All these things are quintessentially British, but perhaps the jewel in the British crown is afternoon tea: a feast of miniature sandwiches (with the crusts delicately removed), scones lathered with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and a mouthwatering selection of cakes to complete the most delectable meal. This is why it really is impossible not to love the Great British Bake Off, complete with Union Jack bunting reminiscent of a rather magnificent village fête, perennial puns, and a collection of culinary creations which would make a wonderful spread for afternoon tea.
And yet, an era is ending— the BBC have sold their production rights for what must be one of the greatest programmes ever aired. Never before have young and old, male and female, domestic goddesses and beans-on-toast specialists, united in front of one programme in such a way. Everyone cheers for their favourite contestant, a fellow compatriot who has spent hours practising their signature bake or showstopper, striving for the title of Star Baker. There really is nothing like it.
The Bake Off tent is a Great British utopia in which a cross-section of society (this year’s contestants include a hairdresser, an aerospace engineer, a student, and a nurse to name a few) exist in peace. It is set in the grounds of a beautiful country house, and the sound of birds are often heard evoking the rural idyll. What is more, the contestants espouse the traditional, courteous values which the British public love: young and old applaud each other’s successes, and console their fellow bakers in times of crisis. After all, what episode does not contain some form of drama? Gingerbread houses collapse, ice cream is defiantly thrown into the bin, bread does not rise.
Each year, the nation becomes invested in the contestants, gasping with excitement as Paul fails to suppress his smile as he devours a slice of perfectly baked bread, or hide their face in their hands as a weeping baker places down a collapsed showstopper in front of Paul and Mary. Everyone has a favourite to whom they give their wholehearted devotion. This is what makes Bake O so magical— it unites the nation, and gets us through the difficult transition from glorious sunshine to dark evenings and rainy winter days.
Britain is now forced to make a choice. Who will the army of over 13 million viewers support? Paul Hollywood, a man in the heart of his mid-life crisis, heads up the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign and assures us that we are better off with advert breaks, and that Channel 4 will help the nation to take control of their favourite TV programme. Mary Berry, an octogenarian devoted to her family, leads the ‘Bake O Stronger on BBC’ campaign along with her ever-loyal sidekicks, Mel and Sue. The Hollywood handshake takes on the iconic Mary Berry stare; but who will come out victorious, or will we face a Great British Schism?
It seems laughable that Channel 4 forked out £75 million in order to air the Bake O with just Paul Hollywood — the collapse of the quartet of presenters means that it will surely only be the Great British Bake O in name alone.
After all, Bake Off without Mary, is like salt without pepper, bread without butter, and crackers without cheese. The loss of Mel and Sue will also be detrimental to the ambiance of the programme; no longer will the challenges be initiated with the iconic “on your marks, get set, bake” exclaimed in an assortment of ridiculous accents. And yet, will the BBC really be able to create a programme which supersedes Bake Off without breaching copyright? It might just have a bit of a soggy bottom. The idyllic days of Bake Off on the green and pleasant channel of the BBC in which Paul and Mary judged alongside each other are over.
So, as this series draws to a close Twitter will be flooded with the #GBBO, but with a new meaning: ‘Goodbye Bake Off’. Britain will mourn the loss of a truly hilarious and heart warming programme. Kleenex tissues in hand, the nation will console fellow family members in the midst of this great loss reassuring them that there is life beyond it, and reminisce of the ‘good old days’ when the Bake Off was on the BBC.
Dearly beloved Bake Off, Rest in Peace.