The Great British Bake Off was one of the BBC’s biggest shows. When the production company behind it started renegotiating the show’s future they got a bit greedy and BBC One controller Charlotte Moore reluctantly let the show go. As she said at the recent Edinburgh TV Festival, she only has so much money to devote the shows under her control. It’s fair to say Love Productions got a bit greedy. I love the show but its overwhelming popularity is a bit of a mystery to me. It drew audience figures that even the bigger dramas couldn’t match and it has even grown a loyal following in America after airing on PBS.
A lot of people were quick to pounce on Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt when they spent millions on the show but with a show of this stature it was a worthwhile gamble. It was by no means a guaranteed hit though and when Mel, Sue and Mary announced their departure it felt as if the show was doomed to failure. A joke a heard a lot was that Channel 4 had basically bought a tent in a field. I scratched my head when Noel Fielding was announced as one of the host but my love of Channel 4 should have taught me not to second guess Hunt and her team. As a family we watch more Channel 4 than any other channel. Then came a press screening a few weeks back that saw even the most sceptical of journalists lept on their social media to praise Channel 4’s incarnation of the show they’d loved on the beeb.
We watched last night’s opener as a family. We’re not diehard Bake Off fans but it has a charm that not many shows on television can match. With moments and without the show trying we were all engaged. On paper the pairing of Toksvig and Fielding seemed bizarre but on screen the pair bounced off one another well and clearly enjoyed their time in the tent. Feilding struggled a bit when the show called on him to be a ‘TV presenter’ as he seemed uncomfortable in his voice overs or introducing the different sections but when it came to interacting with the stressed out and sugar covered bakers he proved an absolute natural. The pair came across as warm and their interactions with the bakers and Paul and Prue were up there with their predecessors. The presenting team was first niggle with the show and that was put to bed almost instantly.
My next worry was the loss of the Berry. I didn’t warm as instantly to Prue Leith but I liked her and I trusted her. The whole thing felt very relaxed and natural. I didn’t really miss Mel, Sue or Mary and that’s perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay the show.
The next big hurdle for Jay and her team to get over was those overnight ratings figures. The Bake Off is a juggernaut last year’s show (my least favourite for a while) launched to an impressive 10.5million in overnight ratings. Speaking at last weeks TV Festival Hunt said she needs 3 million in overnights just to breakeven. So you can imagine the celebrations when it was confirmed last night’s opener launched to 6.5million!
The #GBBO ratings can be twisted to suit your purpose. Yes, much lower than on BBC. But more than C4 could have dreamed of.
— Emma Bullimore (@EmmaBullimore) August 30, 2017
These figures are HUGE for Channel 4. Not matched by Gogglebox at its peak. Whilst it doesn’t match the Beeb’s figures it’s a reason of celebration. It would appear, from this episode alone Hunt’s gamble has paid off. Of course the true test here will be next week. A lot of those people will have tuned in just to see what 4 had done to the show. ‘Curiosity ratings’ if you will. Next week’s ratings will be a clearer indication of who is really watching. Also with the show extended to fit in the ads the channel also has to worry about viewers turning to BBC One next week at 9pm when Doctor Foster returns.
Overall I’ll be sticking with Bake Off. It could’ve been a mess, it wasn’t. It could have felt a poor imitation, it didn’t. It could have lost all it’s charm, it didn’t. Whatever happens next it’s still a show I’ll enjoy watching and with Hunt soon to be leaving the channel this can serve as just of another example of her genius at work.
The Great British Bake Off Continues Tuesday at 8.00pm on Channel 4