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‘Great British Bake Off’ Lives, But the Hollywood Handshake Is History

Filmed in quarantine, this year’s GBBO has no room for such frippery

Paul Hollywood shakes GBBO contestant Michael Chakraborty’s hand
No more of this, Hollywood
Channel 4

Great British Bake Off 2020 will run without one of GBBO’s most recognisable judges of quality: the Paul Hollywood handshake. Filmed under quarantine over four weeks rather than the usual eleven, new rules occasioned by the novel coronavirus pandemic have put paid to the crew eating leftovers and contestants seeing their family, according to Deadline. They have also put paid to Paul Hollywood fixing his blue eyes on some poor soul, extending an arm, and proffering the dubious reward of grasping his sweaty palm.

The eleventh series is expected to premiere on Channel 4 at the end of 2020, making its way across the Atlantic to Netflix and the U.S. sometime in 2021. It will also arrive with a new host, comedian Matt Lucas, who is still in line to replace Sandi Toksvig despite his comedy pedigree as the co-creator of Little Britain, which has recently been pulled from streaming services and has always been some of the most multifariously dreadful comedy ever to air on British television. Noel Fielding and Prue Leith are sticking around along with Hollywood, who himself apologised for being pictured in a Nazi uniform at a party in 2017, which he claimed was a tribute to another British comedy, ‘Allo ‘Allo. British comedy, what an institution!

It’s apt a show most famous for its coziness and a sense of being cocooned from the real world has formed its own “bubble” in order to film, but its doing so, with all the attendant rules, may ironically make this the least cosy yet. A socially distanced, slightly awkward tent with no contestant camaraderie will have to derive its fluffy pleasures from other sources, and, depending on the situation with COVID-19 when it airs, may inadvertently become a reminder of a disquieting time for which it could otherwise be a balm. There are even suggestions that they had to move the tent.

As for the Hollywood handshake, that is less likely to be mourned — its many faults have been summarily critiqued, its steady devaluing by volume charted. What is all the more concerning is what might replace it — the Hollywood elbow bump; the Hollywood spatula prod; the Hollywood “yeah, this is good baking, but remember that I, the all-powerful Paul Hollywood can break your spirit at any moment and am in Masculine Control here” nod. Whatever arrives, what’s certain is that GBBO is coming back, like the world has never seen it before.