The immensely popular “Great British Baking Show” made headlines in 2016 when it moved from BBC to Channel 4, a commercial channel that forked over more dough for it. To protest, firm yet motherly judge Mary Berry quit, as did co-hosts Mel and Sue. Would the show deflate without them?
To find out, tune into the latest season — the second in its revamped format — which aired in England earlier this fall and began streaming Nov. 9 on Netflix.
I’d have to say new co-host Noel Fielding is an unwelcome ingredient. The comedian caught flack for recently (and inexplicably) painting himself black to impersonate Bjorn Borg. He also tweeted a photo of himself and judge Paul Hollywood in a sexually suggestive position to “put to rest any rumours that me and [Hollywood] don’t get on.” And Fielding is still on TV because … ?
But replacement judge Prue Leith is fine, unafraid to speak her truth. “It’s a bit pudding-y to be honest,” the septuagenarian says of one cake. And as always, the real stars are the bakers. The latest batch is brilliantly cast. They’re sweet-natured, diverse, inspirational.
Low-key Briony was born with what she calls a “little hand” on her left arm — really just a stump with one digit. She asked the show not to make it a big deal, refused the offer of using special equipment and created delectable desserts. Many viewers, including me, were oblivious to her disability in the first couple of episodes, which offer only fleeting glimpses of her left arm.
Marathoner Ruby is wildly inconsistent and self-doubting, but that’s part of her charm. She’ll botch a challenge, have a mini-breakdown, then rally for the next one.
The early favorite is cherubic research scientist Rahul, who Skypes his parents in India daily. He looks as if he’s afraid he’ll be scolded each time he faces the judges. But his creations are brilliant, like the cake iced with Indian-style patterns and crowned with chocolate shards. After winning “star baker” that week, timid Rahul worries, “I just hope I didn’t peak too early.”
Spoiler alert: In the U.K., a tempest has arisen with Rahul at the center. Footage shows that he kept tinkering with his seven-layered torta after the warning was issued: “Bakers, your time is up!”