What a joy to see the return of The Great British Bake Off last night. In the 10 years of its life I’ve moved from liking it in its first incarnation on BBC1, to feeling a bit bored by it and almost giving up watching, to then loving it after its move to Channel 4. I love Prue Leith’s amusing but frank style of judging; Paul Hollywood has mellowed and found a sense of humour. He and Prue make a great team. I’ve always had a soft spot for Noel Fielding so welcomed his part as a presenter … but I also have a big liking for Sandi Toksvig so how was Matt Lucas going to match up?
Well Matt got off to a glorious start with a fantastic and hilarious impersonation of Boris Johnson. I was actually laughing aloud. Via the device of a spoof Covid news conference with Matt in the middle as Johnson, and Prue and Paul either side as the experts, they led the way to explaining how this new series of Bake Off has beaten the odds and come about despite all the restrictions of the pandemic. Channel 4 and the whole Bake Off team deserve to be applauded for making this new series happen. It’s required quite a bit of dedication and sacrifice from all … but they’ve done it!
The whole team have formed a huge bubble. They quarantined for 14 days before they started and now live in a Bake Off ‘village’, unable to see friends and family for seven weeks but with the excitement of taking part in one of TV’s best-loved shows.
There’s a good and varied mix of contestants as always. There will be the ones we all love; the ones we find irritating; the ones we’re in awe of for their baking skills. There’s someone for everyone! There was the drama of one contestant accidentally knocking into another and a whole tray of upside-down pineapple cakes crashing to the floor. There was the surprisingly successful showstopper of making large cakes in the shape of heads of famous people – from Freddie Mercury to David Attenborough – and some remarkably good cake ‘portrait’s appeared.
Perhaps what was best was that once the show got going, once all the pandemic adjustments were explained and put aside, the show seems pretty much normal. Really if you missed the first minutes of explanation you could have been wondering if they’d made it pre-Lockdown. But they didn’t. And well done them. For a wonderful 90 minutes life seemed almost normal again. I can’t wait for the next episode.