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‘Great British Bake Off’ F---ed Around. The 2022 Final Found It Out.

One of the worst finals in recent memory was all the judges’s fault

Three bakers wearing brown aprons, with family and friends in the background.
The 2022 Great British Bake Off finalists.
Channel 4

Great British Bake Off has a new winner, and the 13th series is over. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith had whittled 12 bakers down to a final three of Syabira, Sandro, and Abdul. Naturally, spoilers are ahead for the 2022 Great British Bake Off final.

The 2022 Great British Bake Off winner is, at least, the deserving champion

Syabira has the most Star Bakers of the final three, is the least afflicted by baking hubris, and has consistently delivered the most interesting flavour combinations. Even if Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith insist on calling them “unusual.” When the baseline is vanilla, anything is outlandish, eh folks.

A series’s worth of crows come home to roost

The bakers were asked to make a cake with three additional baking techniques that was also a sculpture, in four-and-a-half hours, with but one oven. This is not actually the least reasonable thing the judges have requested all series — even the signature in the final, which required bread, pies, and cake in two hours, was probably worse — but the artistic element of the final, final challenge meant that things didn’t just go technically wrong. They looked pretty terrible, too. The same was true of the “summer pudding bombe” technical, which is simply not a recognisable baked good and should never have been set. Aptly, neither did any of the bombes produced.

The problem with this is not so much the continually ridiculous time pressure; this is a long-running GBBO problem and not one that the show looks willing to solve. Reality television is designed to have at least some jeopardy, even in the case of Great British Bake Off and its hard-won, quickly lost reputation for coziness and camaraderie. The problem is the way that the difficulty level makes its finalists, all three of whom are strong bakers, look a little bit silly. Set up to fail, what else can they do but deliver bakes littered with small errors that a few extra minutes would smooth out?

For all the schadenfreude that can endure, the real consequence was clear. Great British Bake Off and its judges need to remember that when one fucks around, one must also, eventually, find out.

But, Paul Hollywood experiences anagnorisis for the first time ever

At the beginning of series 14 of Great British Bake Off, the series intro — always reliably natty — should involve Paul Hollywood lip-syncing Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero.”

“It’s me! Hi! I’m the problem, it’s me!”

Hollywood took the first step of that journey during the final, admitting that the judges had “asked for a lot” of the trio in the showstopper, finally experiencing every tragic hero’s journey from hubris to anagnorisis.

But, his ghostly aura plagues the tent

It would be simple to watch finalist Sandro’s progress throughout the series and think it easy to pinpoint his problem: overambitious baking, with too many extraneous elements, leading to grand ideas falling flat. But look closer. In the final’s signature challenge, he made tarts and biscuits — not required by the brief — and used champagne to get the judges’s attention. Two weeks ago, he chose to use key lime pie in a challenge, not because he particularly wanted to, but because it’s a Hollywood favourite and he felt he needed a handshake to stay in the running. (He didn’t get one.)

Okay: the other contestants didn’t feel the need to do any of this, and one’s choices are, to at least some extent, one’s own. But just one contestant bending themselves to the sourdough whitewalker’s will to the extent that they mess up their chances should be enough to ask how much his presence is still needed. At the very least, for the hundredth time, bring in a guest judge with expertise in the theme for each week.

What lies ahead for 2023?

Hopefully no more international “theme” weeks, hopefully no more Hollywood handshakes, hopefully no more ridiculous time constraints, hopefully no more ridiculous technical challenges, hopefully no more Matt Lucas.

In sum, it would be nice if in future, all the bakers have to overcome is the show they signed up for, rather than the self-perpetuating mythos it has built up around it.

Oh, wait, that’s exactly what the 2021 round-up said.