The Great British Bake Off

How in the hell does The Great British Bake Off cause so much controversy? Genuinely, someone needs to answer this for me. I mean, I’ve tried my best to answer this in my workings below.

Controversy within the BBC adaptation of The Great British Bake Off is very apparent and can be obviously spotted through a number of the programmes episodes. From Bingate to Paul Hollywood, there seems to be controversy at every turn in what, at its core, is a show about baking cakes. Still, the recent switch over to Channel 4 is a controversial move in of itself. It was revealed that Channel 4’s first episode of The Great British Bake Off received some of the highest ratings in the channels history. But is this down to the controversy of the move, or the actual fan support of the show itself?


It’s clear that the controversy of the move can most definitely be accountable for some of the viewership. Switching from the BBC to Channel 4 not only means advertisements will break up the forty five minutes of baking, but there are a number of other problems that may be caused by this switch in broadcaster. The most notable and arguably the most controversial change is the change in performer. Paul Hollywood has remained on the show, making the switch from the BBC to Channel 4 very early into the announcement of the show. Because of this, a majority of fans of the show actually branded him a traitor, it was a hostile showing that the change of broadcaster was not welcome. According to many, he was “following the dough” and betraying the BBC.

It didn’t help either that Mary Berry and Mel and Sue had decided to stick with the BBC rather than the show itself. This only added to the bonfire of criticism that Paul Hollywood was receiving for switching over to Channel 4. More recently, Paul Hollywood has come under fire of his own due to a picture of him dressed as a Nazi being released to the public. Not only is the show itself controversial, but so are the individual presenters.

Hollywood’s defence was that he was attending an ‘Allo ‘Allo (1982 – 1992) character and he didn’t mean to offend anyone. Really the actual act of putting on the Nazi uniform is going to offend at least someone, especially when the photograph showed a cheery Paul Hollywood with a friend who was also wearing a Nazi uniform. It may be believable that Hollywood didn’t mean to cause offense considering in 2015 he discovered that his great grandfather had served as an anti aircraft gunner.

Although a statement was issued by Hollywood both explaining and apologising for the attire, it’s too late in the eyes of the tabloid. In similar circumstances when Prince Harry wore a Nazi outfit, tabloids such as The Sun have the image plastered across the front pages of their newspapers.


But that was the least of the troubles for The Great British Bake Off, wherein the new hosts are having their own problems. New hosts include both Noel Fielding of The IT Crowd (2006 – 2013) and The Mighty Boosh (2003 – 2007) fame, along with new QI (2003 – Ongoing) host, Sandi Toksvig. According to HuffPost, there have been tensions behind the scenes between Noel Fielding and Paul Hollywood. So far they have failed to find common ground. Because of this, we can only guess what this could mean for the show itself.

The on screen impact will be miniscule, however off screen is just as important. When two presenters don’t like one another the show itself becomes very difficult to create. The tension that can be presented with this can definitely be used to the advantage of the shows producers though. It does seem fairly enticing to an audience. Arguably causing a bit of controversy or tension does wonders to the viewing figures. A lot of reality shows do exactly that. Remember Big Brother and The X Factor? They made the show more horrible to watch by upping the mean factor tenfold. 

Given that the BBC version of The Great British Bake Off relied so much on controversial moments both on and off screen, we should expect the same with the Channel 4 adaptation. However the difference is that the BBC’s version had the controversial moments on the screen. Channel 4 seems to be putting it behind the scenes and off of the show. Former contestants are saying that you should give the show a chance. That’s really only adding fuel to the fire. Somehow they’re making it worse. But that’s all down to public reaction to their statements, nothing more. Still, at least there’s some controversy surrounding the show to keep viewership increasing.

The Great British Bake Off Ratings

Although controversy can add to a show, it doesn’t seem to have done much in regards to the overall viewership. The second episode was watched by roughly 5.4 million viewer. Rising to six million from those that watched the show on Channel 4’s catch up channel, +1. The ratings for the show are considerably lower for the Channel 4 show. Especially when compared to the BBC’s ratings from the previous year.

Even though the ratings are down, critics are praising the presenters, themes and overall the show itself. A review from Lucy Mangan at The Guardian provided the quote that “All, in short, is as it was and should be” so it seems that critical reception to the show is very warm. The first episode of the show was one of Channel 4’s most watched shows of all time. It garnered a respectable 9.4 million viewers. The BBC’s launch gained 13.6 million viewers.

There has been a definite disparity between the BBC and Channel 4. Originally the BBC had a legal clause that stated Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off could not be broadcast until 2018. The BBC waived the legal clause for unknown reasons, allowing The Great British Bake Off to broadcast in the summer of 2017.

Former presenters speak up and out

Former presenters have also came out to speak about The Great British Bake Off’s channel change. They haven’t made their complaints directly. It’s a lot more subtle than that. Mary Berry stated she enjoyed the seven series of the show she had done so far. However, she added that the show would “be different”. That could have been a controversial comment in of itself, but it doesn’t seem anyone was too annoyed. She went on to say that she and Paul Hollywood were still great friends. She would also love to continue working with Mel and Sue.

Paul Hollywood has also spoken about the show giving a very contradictory statement to that of Mary Berry. In his statement surrounding his move to Channel 4, he said that the show will “stay the same”. Obviously those new to the show will be optimistic and almost required by the broadcasting company. It seems to have worked to some degree, the show got the viewership it expected. By the looks of things the switch to Channel 4 has been controversial but paid off.

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