Tray disappointing


I don’t believe I need reiterate my hopeless devotion to The Great British Bake Off. Like Adele, even its blockbusting, world-beating success cannot wither my love. It’s bigger than all of us. And yet, it retains its ancient charm: the marquee, the repartee, the good-natured competition, the squirrels, the judgely dynamic, Mel and Sue, the puns, the fun, and, at the end of the day, its joy of baking. The frangipane franchise’s latest and first conceptually apart Great British Spin Off is with us, Bake Off: Creme de la Creme (BBC One), and it’s soured before it’s started. I actually fast-forwarded the first show to the end, just in case there was a delicate hidden layer of fondant pleasure to be had from the stupid confectionery skyscraper round. There wasn’t.


It’s held in a stately home. Already, this is less welcoming than a tent. (By the way, I understand that it’s not the Bake Off, but Masterchef seems more than capable of extending its brand without – usually – tainting it. I currently subscribe to three versions of it, and that’s a big commitment.) Secondly, Tom Kerridge, a TV chef I’ve long been drawn to for his Gl0ucestershire twang, his odes to eating, and his achievable gastropub style, is not yet ready to host an arena-style TV show. Talking us through his recipes over the kitchen table, one on one, as it were, no problem. But he lacks the authority and the shirt of an actual presenter. (Did he think this was just a run-through? Surely a producer could have nudged him towards trousers?) Thirdly, the judges, who claim to have reached the top in pastry by cooking “from the heart”, but who come across as superior and nit-picky and entirely free of “heart”. I suppose that comes with the territory – it’s Bake Off: The Professionals by a sillier name – but it’s the show’s downfall.


There is nobody to love, or to root for in this contest. The three teams of three top desserters have nothing but contempt for their competitors. They are in it to win it. When the first round of trays were presented to our unsavoury judges, subtitles allowed us to hear the bitchy comments from the other cooks. (I will not be the first to make comparisons with The Apprentice.) One particularly arrogant gentleman with sticky-up grey hair and “30 fucking years” in pastry, swore twice, lowering the tone further with each “****”. While the Bake Off – and I know it’s not the Bake Off! – runs on a rare, renewable energy of niceness and neighbourliness and lending each other a cup of raising agent, Creme de la Creme is Thatcherite in its sense of cutthroat competition, and should be held in the City, for people who work in the City and still wave wads of banknotes around. That one of the teams comes from a firm that caters privately for City oligarchs who can afford not to fraternise with the wider populace says it all. We are the wider populace; they are literally not for the likes of us.

If this entire show was an elaborate hoax set up by a psychology department to see if a pastry chef would actually kill another pastry chef in order to win a cake-off, I’d find it easier to understand. (By the way, the subtitling was woefully inconsistent: the English-speaking cooks were subtitled when they whispered nasty things to each other, but not the French judge, or the one from Singapore, or the Scottish team captain, all of them literally incomprehensible at points.)


It’s a show about food. It should be mouth-watering. It should be moreish. It’s not. It should make you want to cook. It does not. Because the endless identical rows of laser-guided concoctions of preening silliness do not make you hungry. (Or at least, they only make you hungry for an M&S-bought fancy out of a box.) Who wants to watch a competition that involves metal rulers and, at one stage, a piece of cutting equipment that looked surgical by nature. I don’t watch Bake Off – and I know it’s not the Bake Off – to be reminded of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers.


I shan’t be watching this show again. Mean-spirited contestants making stupid food that is judged numerically, like ice dancing? It stuck in my throat.


10 thoughts on “Tray disappointing

  1. It was horrible wasn’t it? I’m half hoping it gets pulled before it does any significant damage to the core show. The low point for me was the judges sat on their thrones offering a running commentary. Why did no one look at this and say, this isn’t Bake Off.

    The whole programme reminded me a little of programmes on Food Network from the US which are professional events for big cash prizes. This felt like a very expensive remake. Its not prime time BBC Two. My favourite bit of Bake Off each year is the montage after the winner is announced when we get to find out what the various bakers have got up to since they left the show, this reinforces that there aren’t any real losers in Bake Off, everyone develops from it. I can’t see the same on this show.

    BBC Two woes continued for me with the Obama documentary – which had been very good over its first two weeks – which tried to cover too much in sixty minutes and ended up creating a rather confusing portrait of US foreign policy over the last seven years.


    • Another problem is that the things that they made are almost the opposite of the things typically made on GBBO. Cakes are the kind of thing made to be enjoyed, and that can really cheer someone up. In contrast, those things seemed intended to just be looked at, or to be eaten by people in situations where they can’t enjoy them but just want to be seen with something fancy.

      I actually enjoyed the Obama documentary (though you’re right, less so than previous weeks). But perhaps it wasn’t accidental that foreign policy was portrayed in such a convoluted, confusing way. I got the impression that that is what foreign policy is actually like.


    • Well I have to totally disagree. I thought it was thoroughly entertaining and certainly brightened up my evening at home alone. Good on the bbc. And I thought the editing was very clever. Mark


  2. It was a recipe for a terrible spin off (although i’m not sure it’s the first Bake-Off spin-off, what about the sport-relief and junior versions (both of which maintained the key elements and therefore the charm of the original):

    Take one charming, highly enjoyable baking competition programme. Remove relateable contestants and replace with character-less automatons. Substitute all pretense of having a sense of humour with straightforward pretentiousness. Add three stuff judges solely focused on criticising the contestants and looking for faults. Excise all baking-related puns. Add challenges based on making things that virtually no one has or would ever try to, be able to, or most importantly, want to make at home. Mix for an hour, then dump in Iain’s bin from series 4. Change channel half-way through and make mental note never to tune in again.

    It was rubbish.


      • True, the junior version wasn’t great (perhaps because the puns couldn’t be as risque) but it was far better than that collapsed souffle last night. The sport-relief version (Cameron-controversy aside – and I agree with what you said about that in your video review earlier) was usually fun though, and David James in the recent series was really good (principally though being really not good, and knowing it). I suppose the Masterclass programmes at the end of each regular series could count as spin-offs too, where Mary and Paul demonstrate how some of the things from that previous series should be made (especially the technical challenges). That is a different kind of programme again, not a competition, but still enjoyable in its own way because of the playful relationship between Paul and Mary.


  3. This was truly awful, as Masterchef has also become.
    I only came by here today though, to bemoan the loss of the Guardian’s Telly Addict (been away – only just found out) and the loss of your fantastic attitude to TV. (I have also read some of the other reviews – 13 was great, I thought).
    I get so sick of people (Guardian commenters!) who pitch their superiority according to their perception of other people’s stupidity for liking something.
    I’m quoting your response to someone on the Deutschland 83 review, which completely accords with my TV viewing habits!
    “I bow to your greater knowledge, but it sounds like I had a lot more fun watching it than you, and I’m fine with that. There are documentaries if you want 100% factual realism. If a story and the characters grab me, I’m happy to be swept along by the drama.”
    I’ll be back!


  4. Agree with some of the commenters here about Telly Addict. As soon as it was announced The Guardian Film Show was ending, a show that I have watched religiously for years, I thought that Telly Addict would be on ‘suicide watch’. Since I live in the States, it’s always a treat to hear about British shows that I haven’t been aware of, and Andrew Collins is so entertaining and refreshingly non-judgmental. I won’t watch 95% of the things he reviews (because of time + the variable ways that the US shows UK shows + lack of cable + I try not to torrent any more), but I’m very happy to see him review them!

    Reading the ‘As Seen on TV’ section of this blog: you’re not joking… stunning how many things you’ve been involved with, AC. You really are at the televisual apex; you’re a little older than me, but as a youngster I definitely remember staying up late to watch the movie show with you and Maconie, but I have no recollection of that Ch4 show Naked City. What a great cast. And being Script Editor on so many recent shows.

    It is indeed ‘Tray Disappointing’ about the end of Telly Addict, but I’ll be visiting this blog from time to time and will look out for your future ventures. (BTW AC you once replied to a comment I made BTL on Telly Addict about bloody baking shows… so I have nothing to say about the programme you reviewed in this blog entry…. still fun to read it though)


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