The UK television phenom that is the Great British Bake Off is dead — at least, in its current form. Last night was the finale of season seven, and the baking competition series’ final episode on the BBC attracted a record high 14 million viewers. It will now move to Channel 4 in a £75 million deal, but beloved hosts Mel and Sue are leaving, and so is judge Mary Berry.
Uncertainty is swirling about show’s future: Without three-quarters of its beloved cast, will it ever be the same? (Only co-judge Paul Hollywood is staying on for the move to Channel 4, leaving fans to quip that C4 “paid £75M for Paul Hollywood and a tent.”) Its new network is known for the manufactured drama of reality shows like Big Brother, and many worry that GBBO will be stripped of its polite British charm.
Berry herself said she is “just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change.” Without its hosts and one-half of its judging panel, the new edition of the show may be only a shadow of its former self, and as fans take to Twitter to celebrate season 4 winner Candice Brown (and fan favorite/heartthrob Selasi Gbormittah) they’re also eulogizing a show that’s become a cultural sensation.
The purest outpourings of emotion can be found from fans on Twitter:
Some are also expressing doubt that the “new” GBBO will be able to match the big numbers put up by last night’s finale:
Ratings. 14 million watched the #GBBOFinal.— Ian Hyland (@HylandIan) October 27, 2016
Its biggest audience ever.
Not bad for a show that is apparently "getting stale."
The end of Bake Off as we know it has also spawned think-pieces aplenty,
Charlotte Higgins goes long for the Guardian:
The show has shrugged off the bonds of mere TV, and garnered a cultural presence rarely seen since the shows of the 1970s – the so-called “golden age” of television. The Great British Bake Off is a fully fledged cultural phenomenon – and it may be the perfect show for Britain, now. We exist in a world where the difficult words “Great” and “British” cannot safely be applied to much. But they can be applied to a baking contest.
It’s a major loss for the BBC. Bake-Off was the most-watched show in Britain last year, averaging 13.4 million viewers a night. So this is more or less the equivalent to American Idol abruptly leaving Fox right at its height — and leaving Ryan Seacrest behind.
Writing for the Guardian, American Spencer Ackerman said he wouldn’t miss Mel and Sue, but feared what might happen in Mary Berry’s absence:
There is one immutable truth about the Great British Bake Off. Her name is Mary Berry. Everything the show tacitly argues about the compatibility of achievement and gentleness is embodied by Mary. Mary Berry is the show’s Beyoncé.
Former Bake Off contestant Richard P. Burr for the Washington Post
Of all the common languages we have in the UK, be it soccer, politics, music or the weather, “Bake Off” is the one that seems to span every walk of life...Ten Wednesdays each year, the country stops for a collective cup of tea and a warm televisual hug in the form of this lovely show. The current season is already attracting more than 10 million viewers. Yet this will be the last time we get to enjoy “The Great British Bake Off” as it is.
Jess Zimmerman, for Eater:
Bake Off can exist as a show without Mel and Sue, in the sense that a show can still exist in which British bakers cook in a tent and Mary says their cake has a lovely crumb. But the fact that the show feels like a family has always been an inextricable part of its charm, the core of the warmth and humanity that sets it above other reality shows.
Channel 4 has yet to announce who will replace Mary Berry and Mel and Sue on its version of GBBO, though the rumor mill has been working overtime with speculation. Among those rumors is one that the BBC is giving Mary Berry her own Bake Off-style series — so maybe all’s not lost after all.