The Great British Baking Show

Five reasons to watch The Great British Baking Show

We're here to make friends. A Great British Baking Show superfan explains why it’s so much more than a baking show.

It’s so much more than a baking show

"No one is shamed for screwing up — the judges (while stern), don’t embarrass contestants. Competitors don’t take delight in the failure of others, and one failure doesn’t necessarily lead to more."

I watched my first season of The Great British Baking Show after deciding it was time to understand what my friends in England were tweeting about. Consisting of 10 bakers, two hosts (comedians Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins) and two judges (Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry), it wasn't supposed to be anything more than a television series; a gateway into the world of cakes and pastries, but nothing particularly life-changing.

I was wrong.

Here's why The Great British Baking Show is so much more than a baking competition series — and why it's time to get on board.

1. This isn't a traditional competition series

Consider these shows for a second: Chopped, Top Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen, MasterChef, Cupcake Wars. Now erase them from your memory, because they have no place within this conversation.

The Great British Baking Show is a competition series, yes. Twelve amateur bakers from across the UK and Northern Ireland participate in three weekly challenges. Each week, one baker is awarded the title of Star Baker, while another goes home. The finale sees the three finalists compete against each other for the title and...that's it.

No, really: that's it. Nobody wins money, nobody wins a book deal or restaurant franchise (although many bakers have gone on to release cookbooks). Winners walk away with a cake tray and a bouquet of flowers and celebrate their win with previous contestants and everybody's friends and family. Everybody hugs and cries and it's absolutely beautiful.

Everybody is also there to make friends.

2. Seriously: everybody is there to make friends

I had no idea how much I needed to see a group of adults exist in harmony until I watched The Great British Baking Show​ and saw the way they rallied around each other's botched breads, celebrated each other's cakes and took seconds away from their own bakes to help a contestant who needed a spare set of hands. In background shots, you can see bakers laughing and joking; you see them tasting each other's recipes for quality control. Ultimately, you see grown-ups and teens bond over baking, jettisoning ego and prioritizing camaraderie. And it acts as a reminder that this type of relationship is possible — that joy and selflessness can still exist.

I had no idea how much I needed to see a group of adults exist in harmony until I watched The Great British Baking Show​. 

Plus, to be honest, if anybody even remotely diva-like showed up, it would be weird. Which is why sometimes Paul Hollywood's flare for dramatic glances seems a little bit much.

3. It's also about learning to believe in yourself

I can't count how many contestants approach the series and their subsequent victories (both big and small) with massive surprise: yes, they knew they could bake well, but they had no idea they were actually good. Imposter syndrome is real and it exists in the world of baking.

But to watch somebody come to the realization that they deserve to be there — that they have talent and skills and maybe a future in baking — is fulfilling in ways I can't articulate. You just have to seen it in action.

Ultimately, The Great British Baking Show breeds self-confidence. It forces contestants to believe in themselves because truly, you need to if you're going to attempt a cake made entirely out of meringue. And then subsequently, you start to believe that maybe you can achieve anything, too.

4. It teaches that failure isn't absolute

Because a lot of things go wrong. Breads don't cook through. Pastries crumble. A tower of eclairs quickly morphs into a pile of choux. Baking consistently walks the fine line between tragic failure and glorious victory and it'd be unrealistic for everyone to be good at every kind. Some of us can't make meat pies. Others are terrible at phyllo pastry. This winter, I nearly set my kitchen on fire when spilled butter began burning. And guess what: we all survived.

On The Great British Baking Show, no one is shamed for screwing up — the judges (while stern), don't embarrass contestants. Competitors don't take delight in the failure of others and one failure doesn't necessarily lead to more.

And if it does? You still survive. In the very worst case, competitors can take solace in knowing that even if voted off first, they are still one of 12 of the best amateur bakers in Britain. Shortcomings aren't a defining factor.

5. It destroys the concept of comfort zones

Never underestimate the capacity of the The Great British Baking Show tent: in it, bakers come up against the type of challenges that confuse and intrigue simultaneously, as contestants used to baking for family or coworkers take on recipes that would destroy the psyche of Martha Stewart. But the thing is, they do it. Which is the point.

Arguably, The Great British Baking Show isn't an avenue on which competitors prove how great they are in the kitchen — it's proof that getting out of your comfort zone can heed tremendous results. Because while playing it safe may be fine for a Sunday afternoon kneading dough, taking on multi-tiered desserts, homemade ice creams and poached pears covered in pastry dough on national television takes courage.

In short, contestants aren't bakers, but simply some of the bravest souls alive.

If you love this season, Season 7 is coming to CBC TV (and online) in August, followed by the series premiere of the Great Canadian Baking Show in fall 2017!