Echoes of “for God’s sake, Prue” reverberated through living rooms up and down the country as the nation (or 7.3 million of us, at least) sat down to watch the finale of the 2017 Great British Bake Off. For many, the accidental reveal of the winner on Twitter ten hours before the episode aired ruined its suspense, but the series itself was not undermined by this one slip: it was a triumph from start to finish.
Like so many of the bakes this year, Bake Off is the victory of style over substance, and should be celebrated as such. From Liam’s “Sunday Dinner Pie”, and Noel’s recipe book of shirts, to the weekly saga of Yan’s slowly fading scooter scar, and even the comforting obviousness of everything the contestants say – for instance the classic, “I just hope I don’t drop it!” – this series was a full-scale assault of heart-warming gaffes and middle-England charm, and no Prue Leith tweet can ruin that.
The move to Channel 4 hasn’t taken away any of Bake Off’s charm, though it has diminished its following with half of its viewers lost (the last BBC finale claimed an audience of 14 million). We can’t see why. The same narrative arcs have played out in this series, just as in all previous offerings: the rise and fall of heroes (Steven), the witty baker in the corner who cuts through the tears with comic relief (Yan), and the person you love to hate (Julia). Admittedly, however, Liam has captured the nation’s heart in a way that not even Selasi, Tamal, or Glenn managed.
The only noticeable downgrade is the adverts, although in the majority of episodes this has led to the death of the “History Section”, which can only be a good thing. Having seen Mel and Sue traipse through France in search of macaroons one too many times, it was a relief that Noel and Sandy were largely confined to The Tent.
When Bake Off made the move there was national mourning over the loss of Mel, Sue, and Mary, as it seemed as though we might never recover. However, Noel, Sandy, and Prue have risen to HollywoodHandshake level glory.
In the light of Prue Leith’s sharp tongue, Mary Berry’s unfailingly kind commentary, irrespective of the quality of the bake, now seems to have a sickly-sweet aftertaste. Prue Leith has spoken her mind throughout the series, providing a refreshingly cheerful foil to Paul’s steely-eyed criticism instead of simply patting the contestants’ bruised egos.
Noel and Sandy, too, have acquitted themselves admirably. We started the series with very different views on the pair (one of us a fan of both, and the other far from convinced) and ended the series’ final episode delighted that the pair had ‘proved’ themselves without ‘kneading’ too much time.
Applications for the next series are already open, but what will it entail? More of the same, or, given the successful face lift of this series, will the producers be bolder? Could we expect new judges each series: perhaps a guest judge appearance from Nigella or Nigel Slater? How about a wacky new location? Stonehenge perhaps, or floating on Loch Ness, or even on the cobbles outside our very own Radcliffe Camera.
We think not. We like the tent where it is, and long may Prue rule over Tuesday prime-time. Just as the clocks change, the crisping leaves turn reddy-brown, and fall with the conkers, Bake Off defines this time of the year, coming to a close as the nights draw in. This has been a series just like every other. Thank goodness.