The winners of The Great British Baking Show (known as The Great British Bake Off in its native England, or GBBO for short), don’t get a cash prize. When they win, after spending 10 weeks slaving over turquoise ovens in a giant tent, churning out soufflés, meat pies, and epic, lion-shaped loaves of bread, they’re sent on their merry way with a bouquet of flowers and a glass cake stand. Oh, and the promise of becoming very, very famous.
Past winners of the beloved baking competition show, which just dropped a new season on Netflix, have gone on to quit their day jobs, sign huge book deals, and appear in television specials. One lucky winner (who will remain nameless, because, spoilers) even baked the Queen’s 90th birthday cake. The reason they’ve been able to channel their GBBO stints into successful careers is because the show is immensely popular. According to GQ, in 2014, more people in the UK watched the GBBO finale than the World Cup final. In 2016, nine of the 10 most-watched television programs in the UK were episodes of GBBO. (The only non-GBBO program was Planet Earth II.)
And the reason the show is so popular in both the UK and the US (unfortunately, there are no publicly available ratings for the US run of the show because Netflix doesn’t release these stats) is because it’s amazing. More than that, it’s the salve our bruised, broken nation needs right now.
The reason the show is so popular is because it’s amazing. More than that, it’s the salve our bruised, broken nation needs right now.
For the uninitiated: 12 amateur bakers gather in the English countryside each weekend for 10 weeks. Each week, they participate in three challenges. At the end of each episode, one sad baker is sent home and one completely chuffed baker is named Star Baker. And on every episode, as the contestants rejoice over their evenly distributed fruit and despair over their soggy bottoms, they also help one another along. They pat each other on the back and say, “well done,” or offer a consolatory shoulder without saying anything at all. The camaraderie radiates off the screen; you can just imagine the bakers sitting down in one another’s homes for a cuppa long after the series has aired. (And you’ll yearn to join them.)
What’s conspicuously not part of the show? The back-stabbing and bickering that’s become a hallmark of American reality television. Heck, the contestants even get to practice two of their challenges before stepping foot in the tent each week. “The show is sort of the opposite of everything that television is meant to be,” executive producer Richard McKerrow told Business Insider. “There’s a basic, real, kind, goodhearted nature which is at the center of the show.”
It’s true that watching The Great British Baking Show is like a warm hug—or a Paul Hollywood handshake—but there’s also something deeper at play here. Each time the contestants open their ovens, there’s an equal chance they’ll have a perfectly golden brown biscuit as an unset creme brulée. (It’s Schrödinger’s cake, if you will.) But they continue to mix their dough and plait their loaves and wait with bated breath. They continue to try—and try their best. That perfect meringue is achievable, GBBO tells us, if only you have the courage to aim high.
One contestant (who, again, will remain nameless) encapsulated this idea perfectly after nabbing the top prize. “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again,” they said. “I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe.’ I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.” (Pass the tissues, please.)
For another reminder that there’s good in this world, follow this Twitter account filled with dogs. And here are 5 more ways to practice self-care during these scary times.
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