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The Great British Bake Off: comforting tea-time TV or drab repetitive formula?

With over 7 million viewers watching the new series, The Great British Bake Off has fast become one of the most influential cooking programs on our screens. But has the show just become a diluted parody of itself as series 5 kicks off?

Not only has it defied conventional media logic by making Mary Berry (alas no longer young) one of the most influential older women on our screens but has also turned Paul Hollywood and his blue eyes into the god of bread. It influences the food that we buy, the recipe books on our shelves and even what we put in our mouths.

The innuendoes and nudge-nudge-wink-wink comedy of the two presenters however, Mel and Sue, has become a little more predictable, cliquey and even uncomfortable as they crack jokes about ‘popping Mary’s cherry into the oven’ (guffaw guffaw) and goad Paul with comments about his very well-coiffeured spiky hair and tanned skin (mahogany apparently).

Yes and no. It is the very predictability of the show and its celebrities, the formula and the setting that makes it so comforting, rather like a woollen blanket thrown over your knees at a cold summer’s picnic. So much so that it has even been turned into a game: Bake Off Bingo. While you watch, cross off the following as they occur: a massive Mel innuendo, ‘soggy bottom’, animal montage, flirting with Paul, contestant peering into the oven and fade to yawn, you get the idea.

Even the contestants seem to be carefully selected stereotypes, a geeky IT guy, a hipster, an Asian woman, an over-emotional larger lady, the youngest contestant EVER (and getting progressively younger with each series), a gay man, an old-school housewife cooking up family recipes, you get the idea. Oh and then there’s the Mel-Sue sandwich after one contestant is ‘asked to leave’ and when hugs are laid on as liberally Enwezor’s SHOP-BOUGHT fondant (cue: Mary’s horrified face = crime against baking).

Final verdict? Despite all the clichés, I secretly love it. Mel and Sue are the processed cherries on top of an artificially sweetened world of Boden/John Lewis/ Lakeland loveliness but who have the potential to bring the tiers crashing down with naughtiness and terrible Euro-trash accents at any baking moment.

If pastel colours, polka dots and oven doors that neatly flip away under the oven (so you can have a really good peer in) are your thing or not, it doesn’t matter. GBBO is reality TV, comedy and cooking show all rolling-pinned into one and before we get truly sick of it (just like eating too much cake will eventually make you ill), make the most of it (and besides, Mel and Sue have already been poached by ITV).

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