Turmoil in the Tent: What's Up With 'The Great British Bake Off'?

The close-knit Bake Off cast (Mel, Sue, Mary and Paul), Photo: Love Productions
The close-knit Bake Off cast (Mel, Sue, Mary and Paul), Photo: Love Productions

It is a confusing and chaotic time for fans of The Great British Bake-Off (aka The Great British Baking Show in the US). Back on August 29th, British entertainment publication The Radio Times reported that the GBBO, which is owned and produced by Love Productions, was staying with its original network, the BBC.

“The Corporation is poised to sign a deal with producers Love Productions after judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood stepped in, according to the Sunday Mirror. The pair reportedly told producers they were not happy with a potential move to ITV which could have damaged the hugely successful series. Consequently the BBC is said to be close to agreeing a higher fee to secure the show for a further three years. However the £15m deal would be much less than that £21m allegedly offered by ITV over the same period.”

Then Monday afternoon, the internet went absolutely mental with a series of unexpected, rapid fire Bake Off news stories. Here’s what we know so far.

Negotiations between the BBC and the production company broke down with the upshot being that the Beeb lost its rights to The Great British Bake-Off. After the current series (number seven) is finished airing this fall, the network will no longer be home to the UK’s most popular TV program.

Channel 4, not ITV, has swooped in and offered Love Productions 25 million pounds a year in comparison to the BBC’s offer of 15 million. Unlike the BBC which is a publicly funded, non-commercial broadcaster, Channel 4 is a “public service, free-to-air broadcaster” which means they air adverts to pay for their programming.

On Tuesday, GBBO viewers were dealt another blow with the announcement that the series’ beloved comfort counselors and pun-mistresses, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc had abruptly quit the show. In a joint statement Sue and Mel expressed their displeasure with the switch and their strong feelings about the Bake Off remaining on the BBC.

“We were very shocked and saddened to learn yesterday evening that Bake Off will be moving from its home. We’re not going with the dough.”

“We made no secret of our desire for the show to remain where it was. The BBC nurtured the show from its infancy and helped give it its distinctive warmth and charm, growing it from an audience of two million to nearly fifteen at its peak. “

“We’ve had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps. We wish all the future bakers every success.”

Plenty of people took to Twitter to voice their concerns over the departure of such integral members of the cast. Series 5 (that’s season one to PBS viewers) finalist Richard Burr had this to say about the whole kerfuffle.

Without Mel and Sue it just isn't Bake Off. @Channel4 has just bought a tent. #GBBO

— Richard Burr (@RichardPBurr) September 13, 2016

Naturally attention has turned to what Mr. Hollywood  and Mrs. Berry will do in the light of Channel 4’s coup. Though no official statements have been made by either judge, The Sun reports the duo has begun initial negotiations with Channel 4. While the new bosses are expected to offer more money and more input into the show, the BBC is said to be promising Paul and Mary more new shows if they stay. Eariler comments made by Mary's husband and the judges’ publicly expressed loyalty to the BBC made it look like the pair might likely follow Sue and Mel’s lead. For a program so renowned for its serene setting and good-natured competition, however, this week has shown us nothing is a sure thing.

So how will all this upheaval affect fans of this very British institution in the US? Only time will tell. The change to a commercial network doesn’t preclude PBS from acquiring future seasons. Downton Abbey was an ITV production and the current drama Indian Summers is a Channel 4 series.

One thing that might cause a delay is that the BBC could choose to impose the holdback or cooling off clause from their contract which would prevent the Bake Off’s new broadcaster from airing a full series until 2018. The bad PR that could result from such delay tactics may keep the BBC from employing this strategy but nothing can be ruled out at this point.

More decisions and information are sure to surface over the coming days and weeks. I’m feeling pretty battered and bruised over the whole ordeal – sort of like witnessing the fallout of the Brexit vote all over again.

More importantly, how are you holding up? Are you gutted at the news or bewildered at all the fuss over a baking competition?  Do you worry about about what commercial breaks will do to the length and flow of the challenges? What about the dreaded product placement? How would you feel about all new presenters and/or judges? Share your views in the comments section.  I promise we’ll get through this together!  

Carmen Croghan

Carmen Croghan often looks at the state of her British addiction and wonders how it got so out of hand.  Was it the re-runs of Monty Python on PBS, that second British Invasion in the 80’s or the royal pomp and pageantry of Charles and Diana’s wedding? Whatever the culprit, it led her to a college semester abroad in London and over 25 years of wishing she could get back to the UK again.  Until she is able, she fills the void with British telly, some of her favorites being comedies such as The Office, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, Miranda and Green Wing. Her all-time favorite series, however, is Life On Mars. A part-time reference library staffer, she spends an inordinate amount of time watching just about any British series she can track down which she then writes about for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK, I Learned from the BBC.  She is excited to be contributing to Telly Visions and endeavors to share her Anglo-zeal with its readers.

More to Love from Telly Visions