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BBC Baking Show ‘The Great British Bake Off’ Beats Olympics in U.K.

A BBC show about baking cakes, pies and pastries, “The Great British Bake Off,” has proved more popular than the network’s coverage of the Olympics, with the curtain-raiser for the latest season pulling almost half of all U.K. viewers. It’s no flash in the pan: it was the most-watched show on U.K. television last year. Here are five things you should know about the show:

One: 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.

Two: Season 7 kicked off last week with “Cake Week,” which averaged 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.

Three: 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.

Four: “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 season six winner Nadiya Hussain explores the cuisine of Bangladesh, where her family hails from.

Five: 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, and ran for four weeks.

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