A BBC show about baking cakes, pies and pastries, “The Great British Bake Off,” has been at the center of a media storm this week after rival U.K. network Channel 4 poached the series. Here are seven things you should know about the show:
1. It is the U.K.’s most popular show. When it first launched in 2010 it attracted audiences of fewer than three million, but last year it was the most-watched show on British television, with 13.4 million people tuning in for the season finale. The present season, its seventh, is proving more popular than the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics, with the curtain-raiser pulling almost half of all U.K. viewers. Season 7 kicked off with an average 10.4 million viewers, a whopping 48% of the U.K. total. The show’s ratings peaked at 11.2 million, which is more than the 11.1 million who tuned in for the most popular moment of the Rio Olympics.
2. It is a contest between 12 amateur bakers running over 10 episodes, and takes place in a large tent in the countryside. Each week the judges kick one baker off the show and crown another “Star Baker.” The tone is light and fluffy with a spoonful of double entendres, a hint of innuendo and a sprinkling of downright silliness.
3. The show’s star is Mary Berry, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; her favorite cake to make is the ginger treacle tray bake. She judges alongside Liverpool-born Paul Hollywood, known as “the George Clooney of baking.” He initially trained as a sculptor before being persuaded by his father, a baker, to switch careers. The show is hosted by Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who are experienced writers and performers, and have often appeared on screen together. The show is produced by Love Productions.
4. Nadiya Hussain, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, won Season 6 and quickly established herself as a symbol of a more diverse, inclusive Britain. In January she was named by Debrett’s, a book listing aristocratic Brits and the rules of etiquette, as one of the 500 most-influential people in the U.K. However, she also has disclosed that she has routinely borne the brunt of racism.
5. “The Great British Bake Off” has generated several spin-offs, such as Hollywood’s solo series “Bread,” in which he reveals the secrets to making breads from around the world, and “The Chronicles of Nadiya,” in which Hussain explores the cuisine of Bangladesh, where her family hails from.
6. The show’s huge popularity has led to it generating headline, such as when judge Mary Berry said deep-fat fryers were “dangerous” and “unhealthy.” “I don’t think any household should have a deep fat fryer,” she said. This upset some people.
7. CBS produced a U.S. version of the show called “The American Baking Competition.” It premiered in May 2013, airing in primetime on Wednesdays, with Jeff Foxworthy hosting, Hollywood and Marcela Valladolid judging, and 5 million viewers watching. By July the show was toast: rating had failed to rise, the critics pulled a face, audiences complained they couldn’t understand Hollywood’s accent, and rumors of an affair between the judges caused an online backlash. CBS decided not to ask for a second helping.
A second attempt at producing a U.S. version of the show was made last year by ABC. “The Great Holiday Baking Show” premiered Nov. 30 at 10 p.m. EST, hosted by “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s” Nia Vardalos and her husband, “Cougar Town” star Ian Gomez, with Berry on board as a judge. It ran for four weeks with a 5 million average audience. A second season has been ordered and starts in December.