"The Great British Baking Show" is one of the sweetest imports to come across the Atlantic since Cadbury chocolate and the "Paddington" movies – but this current season, debuting new episodes every Friday on Netflix, has had a bit of a soggy bottom.
Now, make no mistake: The baking competition is still a delight (minus the, er, misjudged attempt at Mexican Week). The contestants are still a charmingly cordial bunch; while most reality shows are cutthroat, everyone in the countryside tent just seems happy to be there and willing to lend a helping hand. The tone is just on the right side of whimsy – and, of course, the bakes are outstanding. Any show that gives me an hour a week to ogle a dozen red velvet cakes, piles of macarons shaped like yo-yos and a collection of beautifully crafted mousse desserts hiding EVEN MORE dessert inside can't be a bad thing. It's all still cozy comfort food that plays like a streamable, plummy-accented hug.
"The Great British Baking Show," however, is still indeed a show that requires some level of dramatic tension or surprise – and thus far, the most surprisingly thing that's happened this season was Syabira thinking feathering chocolate meant literally making a feather out of chocolate. I'm not asking for the show to transform into "Game of Scones" – but this season's been so predictable and lacking in competitive intrigue that it feels souffle-light, airy to the point of being forgettable.
And the reason? There's no competitor middle class.
No, I don't mean that in a literal socioeconomic sense. I mean that, since awfully early on, there's been two distinct classes of bakers on this season: those who can clearly win the season (Syabira, Janusz, Maxy and Sandro) and everyone else who clearly isn't on their level. No one has moved in or out of those two classes – fallen off or gained steam – as the season's gone along, and even if someone in that top tier falls short, like Janusz during custard week, there's been no next tier to really challenge his spot. As a result, seven episodes into the season, it still doesn't feel like the competition's really started, that we're still in the trimming the fat phase of the show and that we're middling through these obvious eliminations.
Past seasons obviously had favorites and standouts. Last year, for instance, had Giuseppe and Jurgen as the frontrunners from the open – but then Chigs and Crystelle turned into contenders, so much so that Jurgen missed the finale. Plus, you had bakers like Lizzie, George and Freya – all gone before the final four – getting close to Star Baker.
These past two seasons have also been somewhat outliers in terms of level competition. In 2020, seven different competitors won Star Baker throughout the season. The year before, five earned the weekly title – but three of those didn't even make the finale. Indeed, beyond that, most seasons have either five or six Star Bakers, with several falling short of the big final bake-off. This season? Just four – and no one outside of that four is getting particularly close, with only Dawn and James getting remotely close to cracking the top status.
Where are our pensioners with technical, old-school precision but maybe flustered by outside-the-box artistry and bakes? Where are the wildly creative – and wildly inconsistent – types who can either wow Paul and Pru ... or make them wonder what they heck they were thinking? There just haven't been enough quality bakers to make this competition feel actually competitive as we pleasantly – but slowly – meander to the inevitable final four.
There's still hope for this season to cook up some last-minute drama. Perhaps Abdul, the last contestant remaining who hasn't won Star Baker or been particularly in the running, will turn it up in these final weeks and become a surprising dark horse in the competition. And maybe one of the final four "locks" will trip up. After all, while Syabira's flavors have earned her praise this season, they've also occasionally led her astray – and Sandro too can sometimes go overboard with his spices. Even Janusz struggled recently – though not enough for Kevin or Abdul to take advantage and climb into the competition. Yet.
Worse comes to worst, even if pastry week goes predictably, we'll finally have the feisty final four head to head as we've predicted. But it'll come after seven weeks of perched in front of our TVs like one of the bakers in front of their ovens, waiting for this season to finally start cooking.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.