The Great British Baking Show: Holidays are back with Season 4 this year, as the holiday season remains one of the last bastions of appointment television. The combination of the immediacy of the various holidays clustered from Oct. 31 to Jan. 1, the departure of DST making it dark early, and the desire to keep things cheerful over the season make it irresistible for television. That's especially true for broadcast stations like the BBC and Channel 4, which have been losing out for a decade to on-demand streaming, which is why shows like The Great British Baking Show find themselves with themed holiday specials every year. It's also true for Netflix, which happily brings these specials across the pond as part of its holiday lineup.
The tradition of TV holiday specials dates back to the 1980s when the BBC would make very-special holiday-themed episodes of their most popular shows to air Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. As one of Channel 4's most significant ratings hits, The Great British Baking Show would always have holiday episodes when it moved from the BBC. The new network replaced the Mary Berry/Paul Hollywood GBBO: Masterclass with more traditional "Return to the Tent" stunting by fan favorites and one-day competitions themed around the holiday season. And Netflix, which was just getting into holiday programming after 2017's A Christmas Prince" was a runaway hit, was happy to stream them.
There's only one small problem. Channel 4 wants these special episodes to air on the day, and Netflix is not able to day-and-date for streaming. As fans know, the regular weekly series has a four-day delay from Tuesday to Friday when crossing the pond. Netflix streaming the Christmas Special or the New Year's Special four days late seems silly. So here in America, we are always a year behind, with Netflix dropping the previous year's The Great Christmas Bake Off and The Great New Year's Bake Off in the early part of December.
The first episode, 2020's The Great Christmas Baking Show, brings back recent favorites James Hillery from Series 8 (collection 5), Ruby Boghal from Series 9 (Collection 6), along with Jamie Finn and Rosie Brandreth-Poynter from Series 10 (Collection 7). But the big change will be in the front of the tent, as Noel Fielding was on paternity leave over the holidays last year. GBBO: An Extra Slice presenter Tom Allen will replace him for the episode, giving fans a glimpse at one of the hosts of the series' aftershow that doesn't make it to these shores.
Noel will return for 2021's The Great Festive Baking Show. The series also landed two major fan-favorites, with Series 5 (Collection 1) winner Nancy Birtwhistle finally returning to the tent after becoming one of the most famous bakers in the country due to winning the program. She's joined by Series 9 winner Rahul Mandal, plus Helena Garcia and Henry Bird from Series 10.
Meanwhile, over in the U.K., this year's Christmastime episode features the cast of Channel 4's lovely period piece It's A Sin! (which is streaming over here on HBO Max.) Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis, and Shaun Dooley will try their hands at baking for the holiday season. As for the New Year, it'll be Series 9' fan-favorite Kim-Joy Hewlett and Jon Jenkins along with Series 11 (Collection 8)'s Hermine and Rowan Williams. American fans can look forward to watching those episodes in December 2022.
The Great British Baking Show: Holidays Season 4 land on Netflix with two episodes on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.