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The Great British Baking Show: Season 1
DVD | Box Set
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PBS Season 1 (UK Season 5). Follow the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the U.K.'s best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds, judged by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
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If you've watched our cooking and baking competition shows and wondered, "Why is everyone so mean? Why are they so loud? Why is this scene of people icing cupcakes overlain by a death metal guitar riff?" this may be the series to show you that this format can have kind contestants, a measured pace, personable hosts, and informative asides while remaining compelling TV.
If you want to learn some new methods, tricks, and facts while rooting for talented and truly likeable people (who, probably importantly, are allowed to stay likeable in that they are very much competing against the challenge constraints and their own skill rather than being directly pit against one another), give The Great British Baking Show [UK name: The Great British Bake Off] a try.
An ending note: I watched and enjoyed each of these as they aired on PBS. When the series was done, I sought for a legal way to watch previous seasons (purely ethical reasons notwithstanding, some jobs frown upon piracy). Alas, they don't seem to be available in the US aside from some sketchy YouTube uploads.
I hope that Amazon works magic with the BBC to get rights. Even if they couldn't swing getting them on Prime, there are those of us who would gladly pay.
Amazon -- PLEASE post trailers - or at the very least, pictures of the cast - for shows like this. Had I been able to see the contestants from this season I would not have purchased it.
Now, if this show had been made in the US, the participants would be models or out-of-work actors who took a crash course in baking right before the show, the producers would spend more time figuring out how to goose the participants into cheesy interpersonal dramas than actually plan cooking competitions, and I'd learn very little. I'm sure that at some point Food Network or whoever will copy this show and do exactly that.
My only complaint is that there's only one season available on Amazon right now. I'm thrilled that it's on Amazon Prime and therefore free to Prime members...but I definitely would like to see more. It's addicting.
The competitors all had prior experience with baking. One isn't watching a bunch of complete amateurs. I found it informative, as the contestants used techniques on a more professional level. Their discussions and comments were often informative. I learned quite a bit simply from watching the competition.
The setting was appealing. An airy tent, festooned with pennant Union Jack banners and views of a beautiful lawn and garden area, is much better than a typical studio set. Each contestant had a well designed compact kitchen set-up, and everything was open and easy to see from all angles. The camera work was great, as was the lighting.
The two judges were sincere, considerate but honest, charming, and knowledgeable. Their comments were also quite informative.
The baking challenges were intense. These certainly didn't seem to be easy tasks. So the program generated a fair amount of suspense, without relying on negative drama and histrionic behavior for viewing interest. The competitors dove in and all did an impressive job generally, especially considering the circumstances under which they were working. They also showed a nice sense of camaraderie, sincerely supporting each other while being clearly competitive. The casting of the competitors was excellent, with a good range of different types of people that were all charming and impressively creative.
The only thing I disliked were the two hostesses. They generally came off to me as irritating and just sort of weird. They were given lines (or improvised) that were intended to be humorous, but their delivery was nearly always flawed, and their humor juvenile. They also frequently chose to speak in really annoying "funny" voices, notably every time they announced the start of a challenge with "BAKE!" I quickly came to dread their bits during the programs. Still, they both seem like nice people who were genuinely into it.
Note that this show will definitely stimulate your appetite! But it is also inspirational. I actually baked the night I watched the second show because of it.