I’ve recently finished the latest season of The Great British Bake Off, courtesy of Netflix. It was great!
Even with new judges and new hosts, the charm of the show seemed to have become even more centralized, showing that you don’t necessarily need the same people to bring the same magic. The positivity, the politeness, the talent, the treats, the vague feeling that you are learning as you watch: that’s what makes this show so special, must see streaming television.
Yet, the show is an import. It’s something that is made and of a culture that is not ours. It’s escapist foreign fluff that we could never create ourselves. Try as we might and we fail, fail fail. Take The Great Holiday Baking Show. Was it trying to be Bake Off for Americans? Yes. It even included Mary Berry! Did it succeed in replicating the now iconic reality show? Absolutely not. Why? Because, in America, such good things not only get tainted by fame hungry contestants but also judges who are guilty of sexual harassment. We can’t have nice things because we are not nice people. Only a in Europe can a show where the prize is a cake stand work.
But try, try, try we will to make a show that “is” Bake Off. That was what we got with this summer’s Making It, the undoubtedly plucky, totally silly, entirely forced Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman multi-hyphenate craft competition. The show promised so much giddy goodness of making but simply lacked that magical I-Don’t-Know-What that makes Bake Off shine. There is a gloss to the show, a star power, a self-awareness of it’s
adorkableness own being that it simply implodes like many of the projects made on the show. It just doesn’t feel real because, well, it isn’t. It’s a reality show while Bake Off actually feels like a competition, like people are doing authentic things just do to do them. The American version of that? People doing things for attention. Yes, the puns are cute. Yes, Simon Doonan is necessary watching. But, no, anything with a half an episode dedicated to terrariums will be necessary television. It instead instantly places itself as a marketed product, as something that you should pluck from an Urban Outfitters shelf. Simply, it tries too hard while Bake Off just is.
If I had to bet on what the American equivalent is, I’d put my money on Nailed It. The show is as American can be: flawed, short, trying to be good, and deeply, deeply funny while being frank. It’s a celebration of failure. It is neither aspirational or cool. It is delightfully exceptional mediocrity and people like it like that. That is American entertainment and aspirations all bundled up in a picnic basket – and exactly why Bake Off or any of its traits can’t exactly be adapted here. We’re just gross people with gross ways.
That was my big takeaway from the latest season of The Great British Bake Off. It’s pure television that will never be properly remade by the impure, by the American. We may wish to copy it, we may wish to force it into our frame, but it will never yield because it just is. Such is the lesson here: to be American isn’t to be but it is to try to be something else. What a rude ass awakening by way of reality television.