We have some delicious (if terribly sad) thoughts for you
When the news came this week that The Great British Bake-Off was leaving its ancestral home at the BBC for a much sweeter deal on Channel 4, there was some mild wailing & gnashing of teeth up here in the Dames Aerie. Then, When pun-and-innuendo-loving hosts Mel Giedroyc & Sue Perkins announced that they would not follow the show to its new home, we ratcheted our wailing up to a piercing keening and began rending our garments. We don’t yet know if Mary Berry and The Male Judge will continue working on the next season of the show, but if they don’t, the outcome will be exactly what one astute observer predicted on Twitter: Channel 4 will have just purchased a very expensive tent.
So, what’s the big deal? Why does it matter if GBBO airs on the BBC or Channel 4 or BBC 7 or BBC Heaven? WELL. *Your Dames roll up their sleeves, don serviceable vintage aprons*
First, as our readers in the UK already know, the BBC is a very different beast from Channel 4 - it’s a corporation in the public interest. What does that mean in real terms? They produce hugely popular fare like Doctor Who, and also cover the news in a way that’s respected around the world. An analogy for American audiences: it’s their PBS (only better, because everyone with a TV contributes to its funding). So many of the aspects of the show that we love -- the homey charm, the all-in-good-fun, supportive nature of the competition, the lack of product placement, the whopping prize of an engraved cake stand -- they’re all direct results of the BBC’s rules. As Dame Margaret’s husband Richard Burr points out in his heartbroken piece for the Washington Post, those are all likely to change when the show goes into production with Channel 4, which is a network that features ads and isn’t bound by the same rules as the Beeb.
Another huge problem, by our lights, is the money angle, which has apparently been brewing nastily for some time. We don’t blame the show-runners at Love Productions one bit for asking for a more lucrative deal; they’ve earned it by producing an excellent show that’s both a critical and popular darling. The most recent Season Finale was the most-watched show in Great Britain in 2015. Asking for £25 million is not that big a deal, especially when compared with the £204 million the BBC paid last year to keep the soccer (sorry, football) show Match of the Day. GBBO’s audience is predominantly female. We invite you to guess which gender predominates MotD’s audience.
Your Dames would love nothing more than for all parties to get together over a perfect cream tea and work out their differences so GBBO can stay in its correct & rightful home. We hold out some small shred of hope that there are double secret probation sudden death overtime-style negotiations taking place behind closed doors with stiff upper lips and maybe a bit of a bracing handshake and discreet dabbing-away of tears at the marriage plot-style conclusion of the proceedings, but we know those hopes should be tamped down, because we know Tamal is probably right:
But! We being who are are, we would never leave you on a purely grim note. Here’s a bit of a pick-me-up about Big Bincindent Baby Iain from Season 1 (US) or 5 (UK) making good by fixing a Baked Alaska for his wedding, and take joy in how many of his fellow contestants were in attendance, and the fact that so many of them contributed desserts that he go to have a “cake bar” helmed by Chetna Makan. Read this and hum your preferred rendition of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” to yourself.
This is a very subtle metaphor for the precariousness of all our hopes & dreams for next season