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‘The Great British Baking Show’ Is Better Than Ever

Streaming recommendations for the weekend, plus a roundup of the week’s food-entertainment news

Netflix/Great British Baking Show

This post originally appeared on November 16, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.


Welcome back to Friday afternoon. I hope you’ve got some fun cooking/and or eating planned for the days ahead. Here are some ideas for what to watch this weekend, including a cooking competition, a food-themed episode of a cop show, and a remixed version of a Food Network favorite.

More drama (and fewer handshakes) on ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Netflix/The Great British Baking Show

The recipe for The Great British Baking Show hasn’t changed much over the years, and yet, to my eyes at least, the cooking competition is getting better with each new season. The real revelation in Season 6, which just landed on Netflix, is the casting: The bakers are all extremely talented, charming people you’d be lucky to have as a co-workers, neighbors, or members of your carpool. While watching this new batch of episodes, I honestly wondered if the popularity of the Bake Off in the U.K. has inspired more viewers to take up baking, thus making casting easier with each successive season. Whatever the reason may be, it’s clear that the Baking Show has weathered its host change-up and is now firing on all cylinders. Here are five reasons why this show is better than ever:

1) A perfect mix of talent: In previous seasons, it was apparent from the get-go that some bakers were amazing while others were not going to last very long. But in this season (spoilers here) those distinctions are not as clear, and that makes for more exciting gameplay. After watching Ruby’s biscuit selfie fail in the first episode, you’d never guess that she’d make it to the finals, or that Briony could endure so many shaky rounds early in the game, but ultimately win Star Baker midway through the season. Everyone has triumphant victories and crushing defeats, and the power shifts make these 10 episodes really satisfying to watch.

2) Fewer (but more powerful) Hollywood handshakes: Judge Paul Hollywood got some blowback after Season 5 for giving out too many of his signature congratulatory handshakes — “I’ve taken a bit of flack over that,” Hollywood admitted to Jonathan Ross earlier this year. But he’s scaled back this season, now landing them with more emphasis. Just look at the power of his new and improved Hollywood handshake when it is extended toward Dan after a successful traybake:

Netflix/The Great British Baking Show

3) The reign of Rahul: He originally started baking to make friends at work, but now Rahul might have an entirely different career — and a whole new set of friends — after his impressive run. He’s a seemingly sweet, funny guy who sails through the competition thanks to his determination, clear headedness, and creativity. Rahul is a quintessential GBBS star, despite that fact that his greatest victory is shrouded in controversy.

4) Theme-a-palooza: Spice Week and Danish Week are both greatadditions to the show, but Vegan Week is the biggest surprise. It not only gets the bakers out of their respective comfort zones, but also includes the priceless scene of a cake falling to pieces inside the tent as the gang watches with horror outside.

5) Noel and Sandi FTW: The comedic duo was the biggest surprise of Season 5, and now Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig have truly settled into a seemingly effortless comedic groove. Their gags about everything from Back to the Future to French mimes are maybe a bit too corny for some viewers, but I personally love these goofy interludes at the start of the show, as well as their playful demeanor with the bakers during the competition.

All 10 episodes of Season 6 are now available to stream on Netflix. If you’re watching this weekend, please join the conversation over on the Eat, Drink, Watch Facebook Group.


Streaming selections du jour

NBC/Law & Order: SVU

Law & Order: SVU, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Watch it on: NBC.com, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes

The gist: The latest “ripped from the headlines” episode of the long-running police procedural focuses on a big deal New York chef who is accused of sexually assaulting a server at his restaurant. Many of the details are almost painfully true-to-life, particularly the ways that the employees describe their toxic work environments. But for every convincingly realistic moment in this episode, there is at least one cringe-worthy bit of cop banter or corny line that undercuts the importance of the story.

Case in point: The dialogue between the chef, Andrew Liebowitz (played by Luke Kirby), and the SVU crew, in the wine cellar of his trendy Queens-inspired restaurant. “I’m all about authenticity,” Liebowitz says while uncorking a bottle of wine. “That’s why I started Far Rockaway, and it all began with a glass of Manischewitz and a plate of gefilte fish in my mother’s kitchen in Queens.” Without missing a beat, Sergeant Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) tells him, “How about this for authenticity: We’ve got reason to believe Kayla was sexually assaulted here last night.” To further complicate things, the episode also throws in a twist at the end that draws heavily (and rather directly) from the Brett Kavanaugh story.

The restaurant industry deserves a better fictional TV episode covering sexual misconduct than this one. I still think “Hell’s Kitchen” is worth watching, though, if only to see how Hollywood is catching up with the national conversation around kitchen culture.

Good Eats: Reloaded, “For Whom the Cheese Melts”

Watch it on: Amazon Video, iTunes

The gist: Earlier this fall, Alton Brown told Eater that he decided to remix some episodes of his old Food Network show Good Eats to fix mistakes that had been nagging at him all these years. “There were some places where I just hated the recipes from the get-go, which is true, for instance, of a fondue recipe which I’ve completely redone, and now I love it,” the host explained. And now, Brown’s fans can finally see his redux version on the new iteration of “For Whom the Cheese Melts.”

Alton notes that he realized that his old 1999 recipe didn’t work for many viewers “when the interwebs grew up and became the great place to complain that it is.” He’s using a Dutch oven this time instead of an electric pot, and there’s a new mix of cheese and spices. Brown also crucially subs white wine and brandy for cider. This episode is a particularly great showcase for the host’s self-deprecating sense of humor.


In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something decadent to cook for brunch (or dinner), consider making this masterful pasta carbonara recipe from Lucky Peach’s book All About Eggs.


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