The Great British Bake Off was in danger of going stale. But then it got political

Joshua Zitser
Wednesday 23 September 2020 14:45
Showbiz
Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas on 'GBBO'(Channel 4)

Last night, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) returned for its eleventh series with an opening monologue by new host Matt Lucas.

In it, Lucas – wearing an instantly recognisable messy blonde wig – mocked the prime minister for dithering and contradicting himself.

In the sketch, Lucas jokes:

If you must bake in a tent, bake in a tent. But please don’t bake in a tent.

This was, of course, a reference to the Government’s confusing messaging on social distancing measures and their seemingly endless string of U-turns.

Showing immediately after one of Boris Johnson’s coronavirus speeches to the nation, this funny monologue was a decision by the show to poke fun at the calamity that is 2020. Instead of glossing over the last few months, it made light of it.

It was, quite frankly, hilarious and much needed. But there’s no doubt that this is a scene that would have been left on the cutting room floor in the past.

In the halcyon days of Mary, Mel and Sue, politics was simply a no-go zone. GBBO was to act as a welcome respite from the chaos and confusion of everyday life. It was designated time to retire on Tuesday evenings with a cup of tea and an oversized slanket. Pure, unadulterated fuzzy escapism.

Nowadays, however, the show has leaned into politics and this disaster of a year. The producers have chosen to address the pandemic head-on and not to overlook the need for contestants and judges to quarantine, for example. They have eschewed their commitment to offering an unrealistic oasis of calm and are instead determined to provide wholesome entertainment more deeply based in reality.

There’s something peacefully reassuring about all this. And doing all of this In a year where many of us have responded to a global pandemic and the world burning around us by baking banana bread just feels right. It offers a nod to our anxieties but encourages us to stay calm and carry on baking.

It’ll be no surprise, then, that Waitrose – the most GBBO of all supermarkets – has announced a “boom’ in demand for baking goods. The supermarket predicts that this year will see its biggest ever surge in sales of baking as amateur bakers prepare to copy their favourite GBBO stars.

It appears that, in these pressing times, people are finding serenity in adapting to the circumstances – and in seeing their lives somewhat reflected on the screens.

People are endeavouring to bake to their heart's content as a salve for what’s happening across the world. Watching it on screen validates what we’ve all been doing.

Like many others, I have been encouraged to keep baking in the face of a series of unfortunate events. Instead of pretending like everything is normal, I intend to take inspiration from the new series of GBBO and bake a pineapple upside-down cake in response to a, particularly devastating news broadcast.

Going forward, I hope the series continues to react and respond to what is going on in the world. I want Matt Lucas to do a Trump impression and then watch the cameras pan to Linda butchering some french fancies.

It’s what we deserve.

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