Great British Baking Show brought delight, distraction and a dash of happiness to 2018

Great British Baking Show / Netflix
Great British Baking Show / Netflix /

With the past year all but wrapped, we’re looking back at our favorite entertainment things of 2018. On your marks, get set, bakeeee.

What are the chances that a British baking competition would take off as a TV show in the U.S.? Slim to none, right? It’s not like North America is lacking in food-centric television. Every network seems to have their own spin on the make-food, win-something formula. From Top Chef  to MasterChef, Cupcake Wars to Nailed It!, there’s a cooking competition for everyone, with more added every season.

And yet somewhere down the line in 2018, we’ve became obsessed with The Great British Baking Show, a cheerful little series available to watch in the U.S. exclusively on Netflix. Even now, it’s a bit surprising to think about because The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off, as it’s known in the U.K.) seems to lack what most shows in America need to do well. There’s no drama among contestants, no heart-wrenching backstories, no high-stakes prize money to win and also no Americans. But that’s exactly why it works.

The Great British Baking Show/Courtesy of Netflix
The Great British Baking Show/Courtesy of Netflix /

With no hard evidence or data to support our claim, we’d like to guess that The Great British Baking Show was the most recommended show of the year. Because chances are high that if you had a friend with access to a Netflix account, that friend had seen it and wanted you to as well. Why?

“It’s so cute!” some would say.

“It’s so relaxing,” others would add.

“It’s just fun and pleasant to watch.”

And it really is, which is part of the reason why GBBS exploded in popularity. As hosts of the show in the first few seasons, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins were brilliant with their quirky, pun-laden personalities. The kindness and humor they exuded lifted up the entire show, setting the stage for its cuteness. The judges, even the one meant to be the “mean” one, were also exceedingly pleasant.

However, the winningness of the show lies with its contestants. Maybe it’s just because they all have nice British accents, but every single competitor is genuinely likable. Coming from all walks of life, all different ages and backgrounds, each of them enters the tent with no more ambition than to produce the best bake they can and that alone sustains them.

Of course, some of the bakers are naturally more competitive than others, but that drive never manifests in a nasty way on camera. If one baker looks upset, another will ask what’s wrong. If someone is running out of time, others with available hands will step in to help. For each cohort of competitors, this stressful experience is a glue that bonds them all together as close friends by the end of the season. Some have even referred to themselves as a family. They all ride the highs when someone does well, and they all feel the lows when one of them fails.

The Great British Baking Show/Courtesy of Netflix
The Great British Baking Show/Courtesy of Netflix /

For some, this overarching pleasantness may come off as boring. We’re used to reality TV shows crafting an obvious narrative for us — here’s what you should feel anxious about, here’s what should shock you, here’s the villain you root against. The Great British Baking Show doesn’t do that. By putting gimmicks aside, it gives every viewer the opportunity to stop feeling so intensely for a second and just relax.

And if there were ever a year where people needed ways to relax, it was 2018. For many, the year was permeated with feelings of hopelessness and disbelief as more bad than good happened in the country and the world. From divisive politics to tragic shootings, there were plenty of difficult events to process and it made all forms of entertainment that much more of a place for people to escape to, even if the escape was temporary.

GBBS became the perfect set of arms to run into. When the contestants were in the tent, baking became all that mattered. Nobody shared their views on Brexit or gave their opinion on Theresa May. Hardly anyone even mentioned personal hardships, even though many contestants seemed to have humble, blue-collar backgrounds. On the show, everyone is a peer, an equal. And everything else, all that outside noise, is left where it belongs — outside.

Delight, distraction and a dash of happiness. That’s the magic that The Great British Baking Show brings to our lives, and why it was one of our favorite things in 2018. Whether the show will stay as good in 2019, we’re not sure. But until then, we’ll be busy watching the special holiday episodes that were recently released, our only concern being whether or not our bottoms are soggy.

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