Well, it has all come crashing down, hasn’t it?
Like a melting baked Alaska, “The Great British Bake Off” — that’s “The Great British Baking Show” to us Yanks — is quickly disintegrating into an unrecognizable swirl of sweet memories. The latest, most devastating death knell: Judge Mary Berry has announced she will not be part of the series when it departs Britain’s BBC for the greener (as in money-er) pastures of Channel 4.
“My decision to stay with the BBC is out of loyalty to them, as they have nurtured me, and the show, that was a unique and brilliant format from day one. I am just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change, I hope they understand my decision,” Berry said in a statement released Thursday. “I wish the programme, crew and future bakers every possible success and I am so very sad not to be a part of it.
“Farewell to soggy bottoms.”
Farewell, indeed. Berry’s decision — reportedly forgoing millions of dollars (now that’s principle!) — comes just about a week after hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins said they would not be “following the dough” after shepherding seven seasons of home bakers through the friendliest competition series in television history. The publicly funded BBC lost out to advertising-supported Channel 4, which came to an agreement of 75 million British pounds ($99.3 million) with “The Great British Bake Off” production company Love Productions. (The current seventh season will be the last on the BBC. It will presumably air at a later date on PBS, which has broadcast three previous seasons to American audiences.)
Berry’s fellow judge, Paul Hollywood — the Male Judge, the Judge With the Blue Eyes, etc. — intends to stay on with the show, or what’s left of it anyway. (No word yet on what the White Tent plans to do.)
Cold comfort, that. While Hollywood is the judge we love to hate, Berry is the one we love to love. She is, in truth, a British national treasure, right up there with the crown jewels in the Tower of London, if not that other matriarchal pillar of society across the pond, the queen. (The monarch awarded Berry as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012.)
Berry, 81, has written somewhere in the vicinity of 70(!) cookbooks (you can pry my copy of “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible” from my cold, dead hands), and her appearance on “The Great British Bake Off” has only further endeared her to fans around the world.
If Giedroyc and Perkins were the daffy, slyly bawdy aunts of “Bake Off,” Berry was the exacting but caring grandmother. Even when she gave the bakers some truly maniacal technical challenges (witness this season’s tennis cake and Spanische Windtorte), you couldn’t begrudge her anything. Your greatest fear is not angering or upsetting her, just disappointing her.
In the aforementioned baked Alaska incident, a.k.a. “Bingate,” when contestant Iain dumped his melting dessert in the trash (he didn’t save the sponge cake layer or anything!), Berry greeted the empty-handed baker — okay, he was carrying the waste receptacle — with nothing more than a raised eyebrow. Devastating. When it was her time to critique, here’s what transpired:
Mary: I think you know that it got the better of you. It was just a moment of your life that you want to forget. Is that right?
Ian: It is. I regret it.
Mary: Because you know we all make mistakes, and we would have liked to see that sponge.
Good heavens. It was a vastly more painful thing to watch than had Berry just lit into him like the blowtorches the rest of the bakers used to brown their meringues. Mary Berry: She not only wants us to improve our bakes, she wants us to better ourselves!
She represents the best of genteel English manners — even-keeled, modest and understated — but when emotion cracked through that perfectly possessed veneer, we couldn’t help but feel the feels. When Nadiya Hussain was crowned the show’s most recent champion, Berry could be seen wiping away a few tears from the winner’s face. Berry choked up a bit herself when explaining why Hussain deserved to win. “Sheer perfection,” Berry said, her voice wavering as she blinked away the waterworks, “and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
But through it all, not a single eyelash, not a single hair was ever out of place! Her platinum blond coif never seemed disturbed by the perpetually damp British climate, her pastel cardigans, flowery jackets and just-so tied scarves never marred by a single crumb.
Which brings us to perhaps one of the most delightful Mary Berry-isms. Her bites. Whether designed to preserve immaculately applied lipstick or some very expensive National Health Service-covered dental work we can’t say, but the creative angles and snaps with which Berry would attack the contestants’ baked goods are worth their weight in gold [fillings]. We want to believe that Berry gets as much a kick out of the hilarious Mary Berry Biting Into Things Tumblr as we do, and along with the loss of the actual show, we mourn the fact that soon there will be no fresh fodder for the parody. #priorities
Over the years, we’ve learned many of Berry’s other quirks, in particular how she’d react to a variety of ingredients. Booze: Yes! Coconut: Skeptical. Hemp: “Is it a grass?” (LOLs and blushes all around.)
How could you not love this woman?
And you know what? She wants to love us, too. We can feel it.
Dig around on her official website, and you’ll find this little gem:
Mary’s mission: To Get everyone Baking!
Come on, you can do it!!!
Without you, Mary, we don’t think “Bake Off” can.