What is it that’s so unabashedly alluring about the Great British Bake-off? It’s not just the cakes. It’s not even the biscuits. Forget the bread. It’s the marquee. Yes, I’m serious. We Brits like nothing more than an oversized tent placed in the middle of a field. We love to see those opening credits, with the marquee set amongst an unabashedly British-looking landscape of rolling hills and country estates.
Sometimes it’s sunny. But more often than not the camera focuses on a drippy looking ladle before pulling focus to the rain-swelled doorway beyond. These are the moments we live for.
Close your eyes and I bet you can smell yourself inside a summer tent, can’t you? The promise of wet tarpaulin. The grass. The rubbery smell of mattresses being blown up...
The Great British Bake-off is filled with terrible innuendo and we love the hints of naughty slap and tickle. There is no real nastiness – there is never any bitchin’ over bagels. No fracas over fondant. Mary Berry never picks up her bun tins and, in a hissy fit about dough mix, hurls them across the tent. It’s delightful.
If you take other shows in which competition is at the heart – I’m thinking something like The Apprentice here – you can see why the Great British Bake-Off holds allure for us. The Apprentice filled with supposedly mean-spirited people who want to do mean things and reach the mean top of the mean capitalist tree.
The contestants on the Great British Bake-off just want to avoid a soggy bottom. That’s not too much to ask. They just want to have people enjoy their sugary offerings and marvel at their pastry crumbs.
Their white little marquee is a beacon of pure summer’s innocence among the wasteland of mean-spirited shows on TV. Like a wedding where everybody actually likes the bride and groom. We can associate with the Great British Bake-off on many levels. We all like cakes. We all like watching people try to pipe a bun to perfection. People make mistakes and don’t get cruelly laughed at. But we all really love that marquee and the types of occasions it signifies: weddings, fetes, garden parties – all joyous occasions where one gets merrily tipsy and is allowed – indeed, encouraged – to fill ones face with sweet treats. And it’s summer! Glorious summer!
What’s that... it’s raining? Don’t worry, we’ll be safe in the marquee. Now, where’s my muffin tin?
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