In 2017, The Great British Baking Show changed dramatically when the duo that hosted the program and one of the two judges left. Behind the scenes, the long-running competition show changed networks and three of its most well-known faces decided to step away. Only Paul Hollywood — one of the show’s two original judges — remained.
Arriving on Netflix on August 31st, American audiences will soon be able to judge the program’s new personalities. Those personalities are surely missed. Fortunately though, the show’s undeniable appeal continues in this new season, that also introduces some new challenges.
The first few episodes of the new season (which aired in England in 2017) show how that the program is still willing to take some risks even while it hews closely to its long-established formula. The three challenges during each episode are still here. The first challenge remains the signature challenge. The second one is still the technical challenge (which the judges review before knowing who is responsible for each dish) and the third continues to be the showstopper challenge.
Some of these push the contestants in new and interesting ways. The first episode, for instance, features an illusion cake (a cake that looks like it’s not a cake) as the showstopper task while the second week features the contestants creating a biscuit board game. It’s tasks like these that take the season to a new level of creativity, showing how the bakers are continuously challenged to think beyond their cooking abilities.
In later episodes, the program features its first caramel week and its first Italian week. Some of the challenges from these weeks prove uniquely challenging to the contestants (the technical challenge during caramel week shows how difficult these tasks can be) but that only proves that the program is still trying to keep the bakers a little off-center as it challenges their instincts in the kitchen.
Prue Leith joins the show as Hollywood’s fellow judge, replacing Mary Berry. Although Berry is missed, Leith quickly eases her way into the role, oftentimes offering up gentle criticisms of the bakers. Her unique style fits in well with the program’s upbeat color palette.
The comedic duo Noel Fieling and Sandi Toksvig are fresh to this season as well, replacing Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. The new hosts continue to add well-placed notes of comedy during the program, keeping the competition light. They also wonderfully provide emotional support during moments of turmoil under the tent. During the eliminations (especially the ones in the latter episodes), it seems obvious how connected the contestants have become to the hosts.
For fans of the original program, this new season features most of the same great content (strong competitors, unique concepts and beautiful dishes). Some might wish for the return of the original judging duo and the original hosts but for in totality, the new season shows that the program continues to serve viewers well. With some nice additions (more historical perspective on the dishes and new subjects for the bakers to take on), The Great British Baking Show continues to delight.
Review by: John Hanlon