The Great British Bake Off (2017)

Two weeks into the new regime, and I think it’s fair to say that rumours of The Great British Bake Off’s death may have been exaggerated.

When the nation’s favourite TV show was controversially sold off to Channel 4, there was much guffawing about the broadcaster having paid £75 million for a tent, some ovens and Paul Hollywood (in that order). What’s now clear, though, is how valuable that tent and those ovens actually are. Because, crucially, amidst all the changes, this is a show that still looks and feels like the Bake Off. With as few new ingredients in the mix as they can get away with, Channel 4 is clearly in the business of steadying the ship, not rocking the boat.

Even new judge Prue Leith already feels like part of the furniture, being an uncanny like-for-like replacement for Mary Berry, right down to the cut-glass accent and firm-but-fair approach to the job. (And – whisper it – the cult of Queen Mary was always a bit overplayed anyway, wasn’t it?)

Sandi Toksvig is also a good fit, and while the appointment of Noel Fielding – a six-foot crow in eyeliner, basically – caused a bit of a stir (apologies, it’s really hard to avoid the baking puns), he’s proving (sorry!) to be a good team player, with a nice, easy rapport with the bakers. This week, Sandi’n’Noel were even immortalised in biscuit form, which suggests they’ve truly arrived. Though Noel did bite Sandi’s head off…

Besides, cliche though it may be, it’s the bakers who are the true stars of the show, and this year’s are a hugely likeable bunch whose easy humour and worktop mini-dramas soon distract from any niggling doubts about personnel changes.

While the overnight rating of 6.5 million for last week’s opener is well down on previous series, it’s a huge audience for a ‘minority channel’, so it looks like Channel 4 may well have succeeded in – oh go on then – having their cake and eating it.

This year’s champion? Steven or Sophie.


TV extra:


Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

It says a lot that Cormoran Strike – who lost a leg in Afghanistan and sleeps on a put-you-up in his shabby Soho office – is one of TV’s less tortured, more fully-functioning detectives. He was played with a shambling, crumpled charm by Tom Burke, ably assisted by Holliday Grainger’s down-to-earth PA/wannabe gumshoe Robin, in this nicely understated adaptation of JK Rowli… sorry, ‘Robert Galbraith’s’ slow-burning crime thriller. A new story, The Silkworm, starts on Sunday.


Tim Vine Travels Through Time

Is it panto season already? In this daft but endearing comedy pilot, Tim Vine landed his time-travelling clock in Merrie England, where he dispensed rapid-fire puns of variable quality (‘Are you calling me a lyre?’ etc) while giving the camera plenty of Miranda-style side-eye. Along the way, he met Robin Hood (Ore Oduba - yes, really) and found himself an object of desire for the outlaw’s fair Maid (Sally Phillips), only for her to discover he wasn’t the Marion kind. You get the idea.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 7, 2017

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