The Christmas season just gone saw the last-ever episode of The Great British Bake Off on the BBC. It’s not the end of the baking competition, just the end of its current format and its ad-free home. Three of the presenters — Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins — will not be accompanying the programme to its new destination on Channel 4. Only baker Paul Hollywood pledged his loyalty to the tent. Looked like the tent was all Channel 4 might have bought: it was practically the only thing left.
The trouble was, while Bake Off had been a huge hit for the BBC, the independent company Love Productions owned and produced the winning culinary format. Love got a better offer from Channel 4: £75 million over three years. Get that, licence payers.
We all knew the end of the nation’s favourite TV show was coming. (Favourite by a long way. In 2016, around 14 million people watched Candice Brown as she took the crown.)
We all know that the soggy bottoms and the collapsed gingerbread structures will survive somehow. What we aren’t sure about is whether the charm will. A recipe is just a piece of paper, after all. The success is in the baking itself, which the programme nicely captures, especially when a baked alaska doesn’t set or someone’s custard is stolen. With a little less innuendo and the lack of some floral jackets, with the injection of product placement and ads, will the soufflé prevail or fail to rise?
What we certainly didn’t know was that the final Christmas 2016 edition of the show would magic up a montage to the tune of Dean Martin’s Memories Are Made of This that had an already emotionally fragile post-Brexit nation shedding tears into its snowballs.
Could Bake Off ever come home? Stranger things have happened. In 1985, Dallas was poached from the BBC by Thames Television.
But JR and his collective cast of ne’er-do-wells came back to the BBC after the other television companies decided that bidding for someone else’s hit programme was simply a nasty trick to play. Not good form, old boy.
So, there’s always hope.
Happy new year!