Gather Round The GBBO Hot Takes Chafing Dish, Dames Nation!
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
Dame Sophie’s Podcast Corner: An Occasional Feature For Which I Apologize In Advance, Due To Its Likelihood of Overloading Your Weekly Listening Rota
I AM A GOLDEN...oh, wait a minute, NOPE!
Have I yelled with you all before about OH MY GOD, WHAT THE F*CK BIBLE(affectionately known by its slightly shorter acronym, OMGWTFBIBLE), hosted by former Yeshiva boy David Tuchman? He’s drawing on his many, many years of Torah and Talmud study to create a new, loose translation of the Hebrew Bible (which you may be more familiar with as The Old Testament). At monthly live shows in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, he invites friends & colleagues to read sections of it aloud while he makes snarky remarks. That was really all I needed to know, but if you’re also a completist, there’s a solid interview with him on Unorthodox, which is how I first learned about OMGWTFBIBLE.
I love so many things about this show:
Jewish smarties using their critical reading and cultural literacy skills to read our foundational texts VERY critically, with healthy doses of heart & humor. Weirdly incessant repetitions of “I am your Elohim” (Bro Most High, we know! Take a breath & relax!), self-contradictory statements, sloppy biblical editing, rampant misogyny & homophobia: David calls them all out. This is a new (and in some ways much improved) borscht belt for the 21st century. (See also: the new-to-me, absolute genius Yiddish Canadian webseries Yid Life Crisis.)
The diversity of the Jewish guests David has had on the show is outstanding. They include heretic memoirist Shulem Deen, strongly observant young Australian Jews living in New York, Tablet editor Mark Oppenheimer, and Black Jewish food writer Michael Twitty. I think a lot of people assume that because we’re such a tiny minority (and, to be fair, we do all seem to know each other - one day I will tell you the story of how my grandmother set me up on a date with her sister’s best friend’s grandson, a story which involves me taking the train from Philadelphia to Baltimore, armed with a large Tupperware filled with homemade hamentaschen), we must all think and observe and do our Judaism the same way. Au contraire, friends! We are a rich tapestry of people who frequently disagree, not only intra-group, but intra-self!
Did I mention humor? I was listening to the episode about...well, a lot of very gross things recently and was laughing so hard, I had to hit pause for a few minutes while I regained my breath.
Also, and admittedly, this is very specific to me, there is a recurring audience member who is always very, very tickled by many of the show’s blasphemous jokes, and who signals their enjoyment with a loud, lusty cackle worthy of Tom Hulce’s Mozart in Amadeus. I live for this person every episode.
If you listen, let me know what you think!
Meanwhile, here are some bonus links I’ve been saving up for your eyeballs & ear canals:
57 Black-Hosted Podcasts You Should Probably Listen To, plus a couple more A+ choices missing from this list: Still Processing (the subject of many heart-eye emoji-laden texts this week. Hosts Jenna Wortham & Wesley Morris have such perfect chemistry & smart insights, I could listen to them every day.) and Speed Dial with Doreen St. Felix and Ira Madison III (which I know I have mentioned before, but I would be remiss not to mention again).
Also, Dame S. was on #DamesPal Meryl Williams’ sparkling interview podcast The Sleeper Hit this week, talking about her dream of Jason Statham becoming a comedic actor (search your feelings, you know this would be splendid!), some weirdly prescient Hiddleswift thoughts, and deep thoughts on the merits of various regional seltzers and Disney tween shows.
Dame Margaret Can Either Come Up With a Cute Name for This Section OR Stay Alive Despite Her Allergies, But She Cannot Possibly Do Both.
Dee fur-dee-doo-dee-smash-dee-fishie MWAH!
This great piece unpacking the Internet Ascendancy of the expression *Italian chef kiss* does two great things: (1) it looks at the specifics of internet linguistics, a thing we dearly love, and (2) it highlights an internet subculture I was not aware of, i.e. Muppets fans so obsessed that they say things like “we love [the poser models of Muppets used in promotional photographs] more than we love members of our own family” and the VERY STRONG FEELINGS they have about the correct angling of Kermit the Frog’s eyes. Dear nerds: Please keep nerding. XOXO/ Dame M.
There are one or two perfect things in this world, and Cynthia Erivo singing ‘Still Hurting’ from The Last Five Years is one of them. Go, watch, weep, and repeat. (P.S. IF YOU CAN, go see The Color Purple on Broadway. She is just as incredible in it as her performance at the Tonys would lead you to believe, and the whole show made me feel a lot of ALMOST OPPRESSIVELY STRONG EMOTIONS.)
IT IS STARTING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE FALL, Y’ALL!!!!! So it’s the perfect time to read this great piece from Helena Fitzgerald on the shifting semiotics of the leather jacket. It reminded me, in the best way, of Rachel Syme’s great piece in celebration of the black turtleneck, which we shared around this time last year. And which would probably look BALLER under a leather jacket.
Once again, Alexandra Petri is here to help me survive Election 2016 through The Healing Power of Laughter, this time satirizing Jimmy Fallon’s toothless appeasement of Ivanka’s Dad on The Tonight Show last night. It opens by observing “In every Panem, someone has to be Caesar Flickerman,” and continues on brilliantly from there. It pairs REALLY well with this quick piece from Jack Moore, providing a deliciously close-reading of the highly shady entry song The Roots played to welcome America’s Least Favorite Real Estate Braggart.
And finally! Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the perfection of Jenn Wasner, musical genius! Her great new album from solo project Flock of Dimes is up at NPR’s First Listen series (how #Damesbait is that album cover!?), I just discovered a pair of covers she released with Sylvan Esso and cannot stop listening to them, and this crisp almost Fall weather is the perfect atmosphere for discovering her work with Wye Oak-- start with either 2009’s The Knot or 2011’s Civilian. Both are perfect.
Dame Sophie Has Very Few Link Thoughts Left After GBBO Breadxit & Podcasts, BUT ANYWAY Here Are Some Links
Not germane to anything below, just vitally important IN GENERAL.
I thrill to the knowledge that Sarah Blackwood (she of The Sarahs of my beloved Avidly fame) is launching a new column at The Hairpin, Parenting by the Books, where she’ll “use classic literary and historical texts to think through contemporary parenting: breastfeeding, sleep training, sharing, attachment, sexuality, and more.” Best of all: NO STUDIES. They are garbage & make us feel bad. Just literature & life experience, two of my favorite, most reliable tools for understanding the world around me.
Suki Kim wrote a widely acclaimed & bestselling work of investigative journalism about life among the super-elite of North Korea. Her publishers insisted on publishing her book, Without You, There Is No Us, as memoir, because [pause for a deep, deep sigh]...because women can’t be considered experts on anything but their own emotional experiences? Because having emotions about one’s students and colleagues in the midst of life-endangering experiences somehow “taints” Kim’s rigorous journalism? Because Orientalism? Probably a combination of all three & more besides. Now Kim has been quoted in a piece in the New York Times that she should absolutely never have been quoted in, and listen, do I need to get the Hulk gif out again? I think I do. I am seething. Would this ever happen to a white, male author? Is that even a question? Ughhhh, burn it all down.
Amy Winehouse would have turned 33 this week. On my daughter’s birthday, in fact. She was only a little older than my youngest sister. I was in Toronto, the city where my husband & I started making our life together, the week that Back to Black came out. We were in England visiting family the day that Amy died. I have a lot of tender feelings for that talented girl, and this piece on the impossible, highly Nice Jewish Girl standards she held herself to is making me feel many feelings.
Boy, I'm a treat to hang out with this week, aren't I? I can't promise I'll be any sunnier next week, but I hope you'll stay tuned to find out!