The Great British Baking Show is not only back, but it’s back to its best form. After a frustrating season where judges played favorites and hosts felt woefully out-of-sync, the Great British Baking Show Season 8 premiere on Netflix feels like some kind of miracle. Not only did Love Productions manage to pull off a new season of the beloved show during a pandemic in a bubble — which one contestant describes as “a wee Bake-Off village” — but the energy in the tent is sweeter than it’s been in ages. New host Matt Lucas is an instant hit, the bakers have incredible chemistry, and the judges are even in good spirits.
The only thing wrong with The Great British Baking Show‘s debut? That nightmarish showstopper challenge that made The Great British Baking Show feel like Netflix’s Nailed It! The bakers made cake busts of movie star Lupita Nyong’o, British TV host Louis Theroux, Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge, Sir Richard Attenborough, Marie Antoinette, and writer Bill Brydon. Some turned out good, some horrific, and one fell on the floor.
The new season of The Great British Baking Show opened with one of the most chaotic Showstoppers in the show’s history, and reader, I loved it.
The Great British Baking Show‘s allure has always been two-fold. One, it’s just a lovely, cozy show. Between the Union Jack bunting, decadent desserts, and kind camaraderie of the bakers, watching The Great British Baking Show feels like being hugged. But The Great British Baking Show is also a baking competition. It’s simply thrilling to watch these everyday people whip up jaw-dropping desserts with just a few simple pantry items. That’s why The Great British Baking Show works best when everyone in the tent is kind to each other and when the baking challenges are tough, but doable.
The Great British Baking Show Collection 8 premiere’s Showstopper tasked the bakers with creating a cake bust of a hero in their life. If this sounds like it was set up for failure, remember that two years ago, bakers had to create giant biscuit self portraits. We’ve seen free-standing soda fizz and a glorious bread lion on this show. The Showstoppers are supposed to be tough, guys. And this one was so difficult it not only produced some gorgeous works of edible art, but some seriously hideous creations.
And how did everyone in the tent react to this challenge? With team spirit, good humor, and grace.
In just the first week of this new season of The Great British Baking Show, we saw bakers rally to help one another, laugh at their own decorating hiccups, and heard Paul Hollywood express remorse over seeing the first eliminated baker go home. (No, really. Has Paul Hollywood ever seemed so contrite over a decision this early in the season? And did you feel a sense of palpable relief when he didn’t smugly give out ONE “Hollywood Handshake”?)
Were some of the Showstoppers ugly? Oh, yes. Lupita Nyong’o deserves an apology from Hermine. Freddie Mercury got a shrunken skull! Even Marc joked that his David Bowie looked more like “Jabba the Hutt.” But, as with the Netflix hit Nailed It!, everyone seemed to appreciate the humor in trying to achieve perfection and falling short. It honestly helped that the judges seemed to care more about the quality of the cake than the decorations! (Which was starting to be an issue last year.) Ultimately, they saved folks with good bakes and bad decorations and gave the boot to someone with a dry, over-flavored creation.
Even more lovely about this year’s Showstopper? We got a chance to get to know the bakers even better. By revealing their personal heroes, the bakers showed off even more of their idiosyncratic personalities. We got Jamaican poets, Olympic cyclists, Charles Darwin, and writer Bill Brydon!!
In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that this season might be better because it was filmed during a world-rocking pandemic. The bakers, hosts, and judges had to quarantine for two weeks together at Down Hall before the cameras even rolled. That time spent together — and that time away from family that everyone willingly sacrificed — seems to have forged a bond between the bakers that is immediately evident in this episode. They already are friends, eager to boost each other up, and that is what we all tune into The Great British Baking Show for.
So, well done, bakers. Some of your cake busts were atrocious, but the whole Great British Baking Show Collection 8 premiere was a resounding success. Can’t wait to gobble up more episodes when they drop weekly on Netflix this fall.
Watch The Great British Baking Show on Netflix
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