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‘Great British Bake Off’ German Week Was the Jürgen Show, and That Wasn’t Enough

And in truth, it felt a little like filler

Jürgen in the Great British Bake Off tent, wearing a blue shirt and beige apron.
Jürgen in the Great British Bake Off tent.
Immediate Media

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2021, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 12th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. Filmed again in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake is here, sweaty as ever, and the tent stands on.

Great British Bake Off 2021 Episode 5 was a new one: German Week. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judged a “German biscuit” signature, which seems like a limited description for a week that is German; a Prinzregententorte technical to introduce Tent Heat into things, and a yeasted cake showstopper, as the fifth episode of GBBO kicked off. There was high expectation, unexpected triumph, and much more besides.

Jürgen is German, we get it

GBBO 2021 entered German week with, er, “German biscuits.” While sympathetic to the need for categorisation, it’s not clear why the Bake Off team couldn’t just pick two types (oh wait they did) then use their names (oh wait they did, but only in the illustrated idents.)

Still, perhaps the show felt that Jürgen, a firm early favourite and in the running for the title already, was German enough. He corrected mispronunciation; he explained that the showstopper, a tiered yeasted cake, was like “making a three-tier apple crumble,” forcing Paul Hollywood to finally tell the truth. “We’ve Anglicised it,” he said. We’ve Anglicised it. A strange confession from someone who has form in poor representations of the country’s history.

And Anglicise it they did, with Matt and Noel’s Kraftwerk-baiting intro and countless instances of John Cleese-level “humour.” Was it as embarrassing as Japan Week from last year? No. Would it have been simple enough to just say some actual German phrases rather than going for Keep Kalm und Karry On? Yes. Will Jürgen need some trauma support? Probably.

Please don’t forget about the other bakers

Great British Bake Off had its fair share of problems last series, particularly involving strange judging and a general feeling that there was a slight dearth of talent, compensated for by personality.

In this year’s cohort, there is no shortage of talent, but it seems a little front-loaded in terms of airtime (on Jürgen, Giuseppe, and Chigs.) Look: maybe the final three is essentially locked in, and the rest of the series is going to prove to be a procession of eliminations. But it would be nice if, well, it weren’t.

Who and what is this week for?

While last year’s Japan Week had some more fundamental issues in the research and cultural awareness department, its successor shared a more ambient problem. Now that Great British Bake Off has fully abandoned its early educational bent, what are these weeks for? It’s impossible to cover a country’s baking culture in 70 minutes, let alone when it’s being heavily Anglicised, and any teachable or just interesting moments are overawed by Matt Lucas gurning and myriad references to The Sound of Music. That Jürgen, probably the series’s most adored contestant, couldn’t carry it shows how flawed the whole thing was.

Yes, it’s possible to stretch out a premise like this: the episode is proof. But is it good? Is it worth it? Is it interesting? This wasn’t.

Is there a new contender to the Jürgen Giuseppe supremacy?

The same question as last week, with a new answer. No.

Star baker: Giuseppe
Going home: Freya
Running theme: Sympathy for Jürgen