Last summer when I was doing these recaps, The Great British Baking Show was my favorite show on air, a savior for food television. A beautiful tent inexplicably erected in the middle of a landscape so pastoral that it seemed it could be satire—a Disneyland depiction of England, the idealized country that anglophiles like myself fetishize each night as we tuck in for repeated viewings of Broadchurch and The Fall on Netflix (yes, even murders are more enjoyable in those wonderful accents). It was a competition where love and kindness won out over the malice and sabotage of American food programming, with hosts we wished could be our best friends, despite their constant usage of terrible puns, and two perfect judges: one who was the grandmother we’ve always wanted, the other a man we all drooled over.
Last fall, we were all devastated to learn that the producers had decided to pull the show from its home of the BBC in favor of a move to Channel 4 (which is apparently the equivalent of dumping PBS to move to Bravo, according to my British friend). Though they promised little would change, it wasn't long before Mel and Sue jumped ship, and Mary Berry decided to join them. In America, we get seasons one year after their initial air in the UK, so the months leading up to this summer’s broadcast were bittersweet. On one hand, I was so excited to be able to jump back into these recaps. On the other, I knew that this was our last hurrah; that after this season, we’d essentially be saying goodbye.
Now, we have reached the final episode and my final recap, and, damn, it couldn't come any sooner because this season was a total snooze. Did I believe I’d be here saying this? Not in my wildest dreams. Yet here we are.
Signature round: Meringue Crown
Our three remaining contestants—Jane, Andrew, and Candice—are tasked with making a three-tiered crown out of dried meringue. This could (and should) have been a showstopper challenge, but, hang tight, I’ll get to bitching about that later.
Candice, the highly ambitious and overall best baker this season, has an absolutely stunning and difficult design planned. Jane looks over and sees she’s pulling it off, and breaks out into nervous laughter while crying. To say the contestants this year are awful is an understatement. In past years they’ve seemed like a family, supporting each other through thick and thin, helping each other through their setbacks, developing deep friendships though they were in direct competition with each other. They cried as their friends were sent home and their hugs were genuine. This season, no one seemed as if they could be bothered with each other. Maybe at best these people exchanged casual pleasantries off stage, or made shallow friendships out of necessity, but the hugs felt forced. I have no doubt none of these people will ever see each other again.
But this dynamic shift can’t be laid entirely on the contestants. In previous years Paul and Mary were loving and nurturing, more like the mom and dad of the tent. This year, they’re eerily distant from everyone. Both have other projects, book tours, public appearances, and the charm that made them so special is gone. They’ve gotten too big to be our friends anymore.
As for the crowns, they’re fine. I don’t really care how good they taste, because I have zero emotional investment in these people.
Technical round: Victoria Sponge
Here’s a clever technical challenge: make a cake with absolutely no directions. At this point, we’re pretty much aware that all these people can make a basic pound cake, raspberry jam, and buttercream, and that's what they all did. I checked my notes to see what info I could put into this recap, but there were none because absolutely nothing interesting happened. Moving on…
Showstopper round: A Ton of Stuff
This is the round that producers have gotten wrong nearly every single week this season. A showstopper is supposed to be a challenge grand proportions. It’s where contestants are supposed to try stupid things that either succeed wildly or fail spectacularly. It’s arguably where all the true magic of the show goes down.
But what have we gotten? A lot of requests to make a bunch of tiny, identical little things. While this is a decent final exam in culinary school, on television it is utterly miserable to watch. Who cares if their flavors are spot on? Who cares if everything is exactly three inches long, or that their sides have lovely definition? I want gigantic bread sculptures, multi-tier occasion cakes, and elaborate dioramas made out of choux pastry. Those are showstoppers!
And what grand finale do we get? Five different recipes in a few hours: a chocolate cake, savory scones, sausage rolls, mini quiches and custard tarts. Will it be difficult? Probably. Do I care? Not at all.
The finale picnic arrives, where all the previous contestants return, and I don't recognize half of them because they were that forgettable. Candice wins, as she should, and the damn thing is finally over. I feel no sadness, only relief.
Teasers for the new season on Channel 4 have just been released, and they are utterly terrifying and nightmare-inducing. I pray that this shake-up can magically save this once-majestic show, because that might be the only thing that can mend the damage this season has done to my poor, poor heart.
Thanks for riding along with me this season. If you made it through each episode without giving up on it, I’m proud of you. Go bake yourself some biscuits. You deserve it.