It's only been a week since the weirdest ending to a season of The Great British Baking Show went down, and now it's time for The Great British Baking Show: Holidays edition of the program, the other weirdest edition of the program, at least where Americans are concerned. For the U.K. public, the "Holiday" editions are completely normal occurrences, episodes that air on Channel 4 on Christmas Day and New Year's Day every year, one of which features celebrities, the other of which brings back favorite contestants from years past. But due to Netflix's deal that doesn't allow them to stream day and date but four days later, that doesn't happen here. Instead, the U.S. gets them 11 months and three weeks later.
Some years, that's not actually all that odd, at least not when the judges and hosts carry over from year to year. It also works well when the celebrities coming to the tent to compete are stars from Channel 4 shows that were hits on both sides of the pond due to Netflix, like Derry Girls. However, the 2022/2023 Christmas/New Year's editions were sadly not those kinds of episodes. Host Matt Lucas, who was deeply unpopular with stateside viewers, had already announced he was leaving the program just before the Christmas episode aired.
Moreover, "The Great Christmas Bake Off" episode was cast by Channel 4 to promote Channel 4, which is great for Channel 4. For Americans, it means having four old white British actors they'd never heard of who'd starred in shows they'd never seen.
The good news about these five contestants is that four are over 50 and could not be paid enough to take this seriously. Also, since most of them have been on TV since it was invented, they are part of a rapidly shrinking group who have known and worked with each other for decades, giving the tent a family atmosphere. Meanwhile, the youngest, Miquita Oliver, has been a U.K. celebrity since she was a teenager (she’s the daughter of a TV presenter), and while she’s the only one taking this with any kind of seriousness, she’s also incredibly comfortable around the pensioners, many of whom have known her since she was knee high.
The Signature is proof that Miquita is the only one taking this seriously. Her ‘Mirabelle Bauble Cakes’ look like something that belongs on a regular edition of the series. Gaby cheerfully notes hers probably aren’t edible, but they’re sparkly, and that’s what matters. She’s right; they’re not lookers; she’d floored when the cake inside is declared delicious. However, it’s Tony (Robinson) who gets the Hollywood Handshake. Gaby should give herself more credit — or perhaps she’s just savvily playing on the soft bigotry of low expectations? She wins the “Camembert Tear and Share” Technical, which is no easy feat.
However, Miquita is solid in the Technical, and she comes back in the Showstopper with an Edible Wreath that is head and shoulders above everyone else. She obviously practiced for this in a way that none of the others did, and it shows. Not that anyone begrudged her for taking home the win because no one here is competing. They’re just happy to be entertaining the masses on Christmas day.
This year, the New Year's Day edition, sometimes called "The Great Festive Baking Show," was called "The Great New Year Baking Show." It always brings back contestants from previous years and is, to be honest, the better of the two specials for American audiences since they always know who these contestants are. Channel 4 has brought back a few BBC-era contestants over the years, but in recent times, they mainly stick to their own seasons, as is true for this episode. (All the better for Netflix, as their episodes are on streaming right here!)
The four returnees to the tent looking for a bit of redemption from their respective seasons are runners-up Antony Amourdoux and Manon Lagrève (Season 9), Lottie Bedlow (Season 11), and Chigs Parmar (Season 12). Unlike the Christmas edition, there's not a lot of time spent introducing them since Americans know who they are, and the bakes dropped on them are a full degree of difficulty harder than what the pensioners were doing in the last episode since every one of these bakers made it deep into their seasons.
The Signature Challenge is Savoury Wellingtons; Lottie and Manon do salmon, Chigs is lamb-based, while Antony sticks to traditional beef. All four pass with flying colors, though Lottioe's is a bit of a mess. Manon and Chigs are neck and neck in the Vegan Baked Alaska Technical, with Manon taking first place and Chiigs second. (Poor Antony, an afterthought at fourth.) As for the Showstopper, the show calls them "Bûche Entremet," the rest of us call them mousse cakes. If you didn't need chocolate cakes before, you will be by the end of this. It feels like an impossible choice to declare a winner, but in the end, Chigs is robbed in favor of Manon. But it's hard to be mad because she really did a fantastic job, too.
Now, Great British Baking Show producers, was that so hard to edit so it all felt fair?