Last September, BBC’s widely-beloved Great British Bake Off was thrown into a tailspin. It found itself uprooted from its BBC home and suddenly without its two hosts, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Instead, the show would be jumping ship to Channel 4. What followed was months of seemingly interminable suspense as to who would replace these sweet, compulsively watchable hosts. Numerous people said no when approached with the ask—reportedly, Jamie Oliver, Dawn French, and Jennifer Saunders all declined to take over hosting duties because the show was now “toxic.”
Last Thursday, we received an answer: Channel 4 announced that it’d settled on Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding as the show's new hosts. The judging panel has also gone through some changes. In addition to the two hosts, Mary Berry, one of the original show’s head judges, has been replaced by South African–born food writer Prue Leith. Toksvig, Fielding, and Leith will join Paul Hollywood, the sole holdout from the original BBC version of the show, to round out the new panel of judges.
It isn't Toksvig's first time at this rodeo. She’d hosted BBC quiz show QI and The News Quiz Show on BBC Radio 4 before. Projecting ease, charm, and grace is in her natural register.
Fielding, though, is a slightly more offbeat choice—to put it lightly. He’s a little kooky! Fielding’s perhaps best known for being one half of The Mighty Boosh, a comedy troupe he co-founded with Julian Barratt. (Perhaps you'll remember him as Old Gregg). He’s loud and brusque, basically a sentient firework.
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I find him quite appealing, but there are many others who don’t agree: People have already taken to Twitter to comment on the abject bizarreness of this particular casting choice. Channel 4 has responded firmly by saying that Fielding, 43, is part of a bid to bring in a newer, fresher audience that the show desperately needs.
Personally, I'm all for him being part of the show as it grasps for a new identity after months of uncertainty and tumult. Perhaps these furies will quiet when the show airs this fall, when we’ll see once and for all whether the magic and charisma of the original has survived.
What do you think of this new casting news? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.