Skip to main content

The Great British Baking Show is the most relaxing show on TV

Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Noel Fielding, and Matt Lucas sit at a table with some cakes on it
Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Noel Fielding, and Matt Lucas sit at a table with some cakes on it . (Image credit: Netflix)

In 2020 we all need something sweet to chew on, both figuratively and literally. The Great British Baking Show delivers exactly that, and - thank the pastry goddesses -the new series has just started to hit Netflix. The British import has taken the internet by storm for the past few years and with new episodes now added weekly it's likely to be taking up even more of the conversation. So what makes it so special? And why should you care about these British bakers and their delightful creations? Well, it's because the chilled, supportive, and innuendo-filled magic of The Great British Baking Show is a calming balm for our troubled times. 

For years cooking shows were filled with edgy editing, stressful musical cues, and high stakes competition. Chopped, Iron Chef, Masterchef, Hell's Kitchen, and their ilk established a hard-edged world of cooking shows based on technique, competition, and ego. And there is, of course, a space for that. But sometimes we need something softer that centers on kindness and sharing, imperfect bakes and innuendo; The Great British Baking Show delivers that and more. Over the ten years since it first debuted it has been delighting audiences with its friendly competition--with no cash prize--and dedication to making sweet treats all in a tent set in the idyllic British countryside. The show recently moved to a weekly release on Netflix, which also has 7 complete seasons along with the new season meaning there's plenty of baking for you to binge.  

The setup is simple. Each season a group of bakers head to the grounds of a sprawling British Stately Home to cook in the charmingly slow-paced series. Episodes centers around three challenges: the Signature, in which the bakers have to prepare an inventive take on a classic bake; the Technical, where they must showcase their skills as proficient bakers making a tougher bake using only the vaguest of recipes; and the Showstopper, where they must create something, well, showstopping. Despite the simplistic formula it's a decidedly entertaining way to while away a few hours as they forge through a series of bakes that you probably have never actually heard of--educational!--especially when you find a favorite baker to root for. 

Throughout the series' run there have been all kinds of lovely bakers, from kind and talented Nadiya to the delightfully nerdy Kim-Joy, hunky Tamal and sweet underdog Nancy, there's truly a baker for everyone. If you like eccentrics there are plenty to be found and the best thing is, aside from a couple of shocking controversies, the contestants get on incredibly well. One of the greatest joys of the show comes from seeing the bakers helping each other out and watching the burgeoning friendships grow. With each of the challenges timed, rarely an episode passes when someone doesn't assist a tentmate to finish a bake or to display their delightful goods properly. 

Speaking of those delightful goods, there are all sorts of incredible creations on the show. From bread-shaped sculptures to classic French patisserie, a Tom Delonge portrait cake, and plenty of cookies, The Great British Baking Show is a visual feast. Ever wanted how to make a medieval pie? Maybe a Victorian cake that looks like a tennis court? Then you're in luck. Even though you'll likely find something you'll want to bake, the show never puts education over entertainment, more focused on the personalities that fill the tent than the recipes. Another of the show's most appealing choices comes in the way they present each of the baker's plans with charming illustrations that imagine their final cakes and describe what they're attempting. Of course, the fun comes when we see how well--or badly--the bakers do at bringing them to life. 

Each of the seasons are hosted by a selection of British comedians and TV personalities who take great pleasure in making baking sound as dirty as possible. If you're a fan of saucy puns and innuendo then you'll be delighted by talk of "soggy bottoms" and cheeky lines like "stop touching your dough balls." It's all very silly and just what we need in the not so silly timeline of 2020. The hosts are joined by two judges; in the original run of the series its baking gurus Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, and later on Mary gets replaced by Prue Leith due to a network change in the UK. In fact, it was controversial that Paul continued despite the show's new home. No matter who the judges are, their role is the same: to be funny, sometimes a little harsh, but mostly to be celebratory. And the validation that everyone wants more than anything is a handshake from Hollywood himself, so keep your eye out for those momentous moments. 

Basically, we all need a little rest this year and The Great British Baking Show offers that chilled out break from reality. Even if you've watched every season, go back and pick one at random while you wait for new episodes. There's a high level of rewatchability to the format and even if you're a superfan it's unlikely you'll remember every bake, bit of drama, and delightfully droll pun. Participate in some self care and gorge yourself on this light and lovely bit of programming!