Hype and Design Prior to the GBBO Final

Two of the first post war iconic designs for small cars, the bubble car and Mini could not have had more different origins: the bubble car was created in peacetime by Messerschmidt and Heinkel as a way of using up the cockpits and covers left over from wartime aircraft production, whilst by contrast the Mini, was a deliberate response to the Suez crisis and a need for smaller cars with less fuel consumption. Alec Issigonis’ design came from many hours of deliberate thought and attempts to match form and function.  The end product works because much effort went into its creation and of course the prime reason why the car, despite its many facelifts, is still being produced today.

The same is true of the GBBO product. Considerable effort has already gone into editing the episodes as individual stories and also to align with the characters ‘chosen’ for them.  But make no mistake in believing that all three of the Finalists are there by virtue of considerable effort and thought. It may still not seem cool in Britain to appear to want to do well or to admit to having made an effort, but all finalists did just that. There has been a considerable degree of editorial design to create the three characters whose relative merits as bakers are being discussed, but I spent a considerable period of time with them and I don’t even feel they are being presented in quite the way I know them, much less how their nearest and dearest must view them. I recognise where the the material was taken from, but I don’t recognise it as the whole person.

Of course there is a degree of one dimensionality about their representation, but let’s not confuse it with what the real person behind the creation must be: would someone who runs a successful PR company not have excellent interpersonal skills and be genuinely likeable, would a medical student really be of a personality that approaches something they care about by ‘winging it’ when people’s lives at one point in the future will be at stake, and can someone with a First in Law really be quite so emotional and unable to hold it together when it counts?

This has been the longest series of GBBO yet filmed, and all the bakers looked exhausted at the Final. They all had little time to prepare and develop the recipes they created- by my estimate the longest any one of them will have had is 72 hours to create 2 original recipes to quite exacting specifications.

There has been a larger than normal degree of ‘tricksiness’ about this series when compared to previously, which meant that sometimes the ‘baking’ and ‘patisserie’ element was stretched like old knicker elastic in the equivalent of a boil wash at 60 degrees: perhaps an inevitable consequence of producing a 10 programme series with original challenges when it is already on its third series and starting worldwide syndication. However syndication to other countries will probably widen the range of challenges available and give the format new life. Certainly some of us felt that some of the challenges had more than an eye to American baking than British, and this may be the way it goes in the future, the 70s back catalogue having been trawled by judges and allegedly contestants.

So my thoughts on the Final prior to transmission for those who do not know the result, is to take it all with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit of fun, that in the grand scheme of things will be a footnote in TV history soon and is being provided by the efforts of 3 men who had very little notice and now have a huge expectation upon them that it will all be stunning, spectacular and worthy of the Final. We are asking them to produce us a Mini and providing them with a few rusty cockpits. They stuck at it for 10 weeks because they wanted to, in  a way that I do not think I could have done it justice had I been in the Final. Knowing how little time they had, all three of them did it justice and should be commended for that.

So be kind to them with all your online comments. And by the way, someone makes something that tastes so fine it is the equal of anything they have produced in any episode to date, and to my mind, to pull that off in the Final is some achievement. I’ll be contacting him for the recipe shortly! 🙂


13 responses to “Hype and Design Prior to the GBBO Final

  1. An important reminder, I think. It’s all a bit of the pantomime, being told who to boo and hiss at, characters constructed with little reference to who the people inside are. Anyway, I’m backing Brendan. In the previous series there has always been the older, camp man who didn’t get very far and I want this one to make it!

  2. I’m Team James, but to be honest they are all great in their own way — all of those featured on the show have had their own qualities

  3. A great post Danny, and a timely one. People need to keep in mind that what they’re being presented with is a highly tuned and tweaked version of reality. And that the broad strokes characterisation of the competitors isn’t being done through any cynicism or mischievousness on the part of the producers, but as a necessary evil when faced with the onerous task of reducing 30+ hours of footage to 50 odd minutes of airtime. And in a way that results in exciting and compelling TV. Personally I’ve been supporting James since the first show, but I still have enormous respect, admiration and fondness for all the contestants.

  4. Thanks for the great insights. Team Brendan all the way!

  5. Your warning of imminent syndication doesn’t cheer, Danny.

    Compared to any other “reality” show, GBBO has seemed blessed with less hype, distortion and populist pandering. It’s lonely out here, I’d even like Strictly to be about ballroom dancing. Every time I hear “And the winner/loser is… [long pause commanding bated breaths] …” the off-button beckons.

    I wish I were wishing you luck in the final, Danny, but am looking forward to it anyway. Thank you for your interesting and educational blogs!

    • You’re welcome Paddy and I can understand your view of reality TV -it’s why I avoid those kind of shows generally. However the point I’ve been making is that it is a reality show although pre-recorded, and shouldn’t be held up as beacon of niceness- it has a hardness to it, although sugar coated. The world of cooking is just as full of its shouty, nasty types (in fact it’s what’s been said to have held many women back in the professional kitchen atmosphere) so that side of the judging is toned down to be less of the bear pit in this programme, but there is no shortage of people who can fill that role on all the reality TV programmes. However what really saves it is the pre-recording, Mary’s credibility as a judge with a strong desire to stick up for her views, and Mel and Sue. I think with any other pair of presenters it wouldn’t have worked, but their role saying what the person at home might say if they were in the room is vital.

      • I had to pare down my earlier post, Danny, and in all the agonising left out my view that Mel and Sue are TREASURES!

  6. Fascinating post, Danny. It certainly made me think a little more about who I was rooting for, and why.

  7. I knew John back in college, though we didn’t stay in touch when we went to university. The way he was presented on the show seemed much more flighty and panic-stricken than the rather calm, collected, charismatic boy I used to know.

  8. I wanted all 3 of them to win, loved them all. In fact that’s true of pretty well all of the contestants this series.

    This is the only reality show I watch; it is very clear that the tiny bit of personal story shown is cut entirely to portray what the producers want, rather than what actually is.

    I love the show; it inspires and encourages me. I made a tarte tatin for the first time as a direct consequence of the show; it was perfect and delicious (and I’m now almost a dab hand with puff pastry!). My next challenge will be chiffon cake…..

  9. “would someone who runs a successful PR company not have excellent interpersonal skills and be genuinely likeable, would a medical student really be of a personality that approaches something they care about by ‘winging it’ when people’s lives at one point in the future will be at stake, and can someone with a First in Law really be quite so emotional and unable to hold it together when it counts?”

    Exactly my thoughts too. It makes for a more interesting narrative and I think they assume we need simple characterisations. Supposedly more interesting that ‘calm, organised med student bakes calmly and efficiently’.

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