Misinformed, angry, coffee-addled ranting.
Tonight at 8pm on BBC Two marks the return of the most middle class form of Light Entertainment since Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s Organic Private School Adventures, featuring an extended cameo of Boris Johnson playing golf with everyone’s favourite bigoted hate-junkie Katie Hopkins soundtracked by Coldplay. Yes, that’s right, The Great British Bake Off is returning to our screens in a veritable orgy of doilies and rhubarb crumble.
Now in its fourth series, the show is a testament to the British people’s love of food and watching other people do all the hard work. It’s a guilty pleasure in the sense that, while there is conflict and injustice all over the world, for that brief hour every week there is nothing more tense and important than whether Sonja from Chatham’s Victoria Sponge is going to rise properly. But really there’s no guilt to be had here – it’s a show about delicious desserts, cooked, not by experts, but by average normal people who happen to know what they’re doing, with injections of gentle comedy from Mel & Sue, rampant innuendo and the raw eroticism of Paul Hollywood. What’s not to like?
Lighter than a meringue nest, the show is so inoffensive and sugary it makes your teeth ache. All of the contestants come across as genuinely nice people, which makes it annoyingly difficult to properly hate them. Last series I developed an irrational loathing of Brendan, for no intelligible reason other than he was just too good. This coupled with his likeable demeanour and genuine humbleness clearly meant he was a complete bastard. Then there was Cathryn, a woman who managed to set feminism back about thirty years after inciting misogynistic fantasies everywhere by being hot and great at baking.
Even the judges are too nice. The show’s resident Mr Nasty Paul Hollywood is supposed to be the Simon Cowell of the baking world, ready with a withering put-down or an icy stare at every underdone muffin or ‘soggy bottom’. Except instead of a piercing glare, Hollywood manages to exude a look that suggests he’s about to take you roughly in the barn and, quite frankly, you’d be okay with it. I think it’s the eyes.
Still, this is The Bastard Lounge so there has to be something to hate (apart from Brendan, the modest talented twat. What a bastard). And I think I’ve figured it out. It’s just so overly twee and quaint. Everyone’s too nice. The whole thing takes place in a giant gazebo, reminiscent of an overblown church fête. That every surface is smothered in bunting and polka dots suggests that vintage shops up and down the country are running dangerously low on stock.
Floral aprons and dainty little cupcake holders seem to be all the fashion at the minute. Every town centre seems to be drowning in shops selling nothing but infuriatingly small pointless boxes and hand painted bookends. Everything’s getting the lovey-dovey treatment nowadays. Even doormats.
This probably has something to do with a desire for a more innocent, idealised time, a time of afternoon tea, ginger beer and casual racism. It’s a sense of nostalgia for a time that no-one alive actually remembers. Like the current love of pocketwatches and moustaches, these quaint little odds and ends are a throwback to days gone by, a way of carrying on folksy traditions that otherwise would have been sadly lost. And that’s fine. But when people start making Cupcake Vibrators, I draw the line. That’s right. Apparently they’ve even made wanking twee. It won’t be long before we start seeing ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ butt-plugs, or perhaps a cock-ring with a nice Cath Kidston floral pattern. One guesses that the vibrator is supposed to be more girly and less intimidating than more traditional sex toys, but it just comes across as being marketed towards lonely fat girls with an erotic obsession with cake.
But anyway, I digress. As regular readers will know, nostalgia is a favourite topic of discussion of mine. The innocent peppering of assorted knick-knacks with cutesy slogans and the like is all well and good, but this is 2013. I know it’s supposed to be all about Great British tradition but I think the Great British Bake Off could benefit from a nice healthy dose of modern realism.
Instead of making the cakes from scratch, contestants should instead be filmed wandering miserably around Asda looking for the pre-made cake mix with the edible Tom & Jerry stickers. The ovens should periodically break down, leaving them to sit on the phone to customer support for four hours, after which they have to wait 4-6 working days for the replacement parts to arrive at any time between 7am and never. And when the losing contestants have to leave the show, a disgusted Paul Hollywood should chuck a whisk in their face and kick them around a bit, before leaving them to trudge home in the pissing rain because all the buses have stopped and they’ve not got any money for a taxi. That’s the true Britain of 2013.