Comfort in cake

Cakes with British flags

After the rollercoaster of emotions the British public has been subjected to this summer it only seems right and proper that collectively we turn to cake in order to soothe our frayed nerves.

Acting as the nation’s therapist, The Great British Bake Off returns to our screens just in time to banish those Brexit blues, wipe away the memories of the English football team’s failures and relax us after the Olympic euphoria.

For a show that was hidden away on BBC2 and dismissed by critics as fluff, Bake Off has not only survived countless attempts to ‘improve’ it and widen its appeal, it has become a national treasure with an almost fanatical following.

As the success of Bake Off continues to grow year on year, it has thrown commissioning editors into a spin. As executives sit through the weekly conference calls to review ratings, the behemoth that is Bake Off continues to baffle and confound all expectations.

From its relatively humble beginnings with a small niche audience and little expectation from executives, it took only 4 seasons for Bake Off to not just dominate BBC2 and regularly outperform BBC1 shows but to do the impossible and smash the ratings record for BBC2 – knocking Top Gear from its seemingly untouchable position of holding the highest ever viewing figures for the channel.

For TV commissioners, everything pointed to this show being a failure; from the beginning executives admit they did not understand the demographics of their audience.

The show also didn’t fit easily into just one box, part reality show, part cookery show and part competition – executives get nervous when something doesn’t conform to a predefined concept.

A Rising Success

When the initial reviews were quite hostile it seemed to confirm everything that executives had been saying during those tense telephone conferencing calls – this show was a waste of airtime.

In the background hours went into discussions over perceived weaknesses in the show; different presenters were needed, the judges were too nice, the contestants too boring were the main issues brought up by executives. Yet amidst all the negativity, the show continued its meteoric rise.

Finally, it was clear the show had surpassed the confines of BBC2 and was ready to take centre stage on BBC1 – a move that rewarded the corporation with a huge rating increase and still executives felt the show needed a radical upgrade before the move, a clear sign that they still didn’t fully understand the show or its audience.

Thankfully, the show’s producers held firm and kept the format that had brought so much success. In their chase for ratings, commissioning editors have been desperate to attempt to replicate some of that Bake Off magic.

Executives have sat round countless conference calls trying to come up with other shows to exploit the demand; so far they’ve only come up with The Great British Sewing Bee, which while successful is some way off reaching the heights of Bake Off.

As commissioning editors sit through telephone conferences listening to the latest pitch, Bake Off shows no signs of slowing down.

Bake Off has been sold to a staggering 196 territories worldwide and the format has been sold to 19 countries making it the third most popular BBC format in the corporation’s history.

There’s something fantastically British about a baking show having captured the nation’s fascination, that Bake Off has managed to do it without the heavily pushed PR that other shows utilise makes it all the more impressive and all the more perplexing for television executives, ensuring many more telephone conference calls trying to bottle the magic of Bake Off.