If there was a competition for “Crappiest. Year. Ever”, 2016 would destroy every wannabe up-and-comer, sweep the gold, and then strangle with its bare hands the beloved and adored celebrity presenting the medals.
Latest on its hit list of Decent and Good Things We Need to Give Us Hope for the Future is my third true love after my boyfriend and my cat: the treasured and unspeakably magical Great British Bake Off.
To give you an idea of how world-shaking this is, it is classified as breaking news on the BBC News website right now, right alongside David Cameron’s retirement from politics (BYE, DICKHEAD).
I am at least 67.87% certain that if PM Theresa May swelled up like a balloon and floated away into space it wouldn’t break the front page.
But, before you pitch yourself out of the window like I nearly did, fear not, beloveds. It’s not cancelled. That would be too kind.
On Monday night, the BBC and Love Productions (the company who actually makes the show) announced that, after contract negotiations fell through, the universally adored baking competition would never again air under the British Broadcasting Corporation’s historical banner.
After the currently airing (and obviously amazing) season ends, GBBO will bid farewell to the world’s oldest national broadcasting organization and take up residence on the UK’s “edgier” (once … upon a time), younger station, Channel 4, home to Black Sheep and, once upon a time, Big Brother.
You may think this is good news. After all, the show will still be around and on Channel 4 which has never shied away from innuendo and fun. It’s just that its raft of cooking shows tend to err on the … Gordon Ramsay side of things …
Yeah, ‘bout a million miles away from the genteel, fluffy nature of one of the BBC’s most watched TV shows. Just so you understand how devastating this is to the Beeb: The first episode of the new series drew in 10 million viewers in the UK alone, the largest audience for the show and nearly half the total viewing audience in the country.
That’s not even accounting for the rapidly growing international audience, much of which has only recently discovered the pasty-wrapped gem. Were I more inclined to dive headlong into a depressing examination of what this change says about the state the BBC finds itself in under Tory rule, I would. Because the long and short of this shake-up comes down to money. The BBC couldn’t afford to keep paying Love Productions for Bake Off. I’m not so inclined. I’ll get angry and then I’ll break something and I don’t like breaking things. They’re usually my things and I need them.
So, sure. The show lives.
But it will be different. It will have ad breaks (curse the very sky!) and sponsorship (fie upon you!) and a whole new body of Ch4 and sponsorship execs who would be well within their rights to “suggest” new things.
Maybe we’ll get lucky. Love Productions has a flawless formula with the show and has resisted any change for seven years. With the success they have, they will have incredible leverage to fight for their baby and if they know their audience, they will. Maybe Channel 4 will innately understand the nature of the show and maybe they’ll step back and let Love Production do their thing, free of interference.
Right now, it’s not even clear if any of the current stars — Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and the impossible perfect Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins — are set to follow. It’s not entirely clear whether their contract with the show was with Love Productions directly or if they will remain tied to the BBC, but what is known is that they were not consulted during the failed negotiations. While we all just learned we may lose a beloved show, they just learned they may lose a beloved job.
Though Mel and Sue made their start on Channel 4, and thus the move may work out a homecoming for them, they are employed by the BBC, presenting radio shows and a host of other programmes when they’re not literally making the world better with shameless innuendo and just honest-to-God genuine kindness. It’s no small ask, a change like this.
Mary and Paul have sworn fealty to GBBO, as is right and good. Love Productions claims it’s keen to retain all the presenters, but a change-up like this can do funny things to an entertainer, especially if that change comes suddenly and without your being consulted at all. All or none of them might decide it’s too big of an ask. All or none of them might decide it’s time to explore new things.
And what of the international audiences? I have friends who already struggle to watch the show as it is, because the BBC is astonishingly clueless about their overseas market despite rampaging success with shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who.
So we find ourselves in a kind of limbo. The show will go on, but how, and with whom, we just don’t know.
We can hope for the best, but, for now, the Great British Bake Off as we all knew it, the show as it exists, that we came to love and hold so dear … is over.
Join me, friends. Raise your batter-soaked whisks to the sky and bid farewell to a way of life; a movement that reignited the love of home baking in the UK; that single-handedly reminded the world it’s cool to love baking, and it’s okay to be just okay at it.
Farewell, Bake Off.