The trouble with cult hits is that I never really get to them until about three series in. And The Great British Bake Off has shamefully been no exception. Of course I knew of its existence when it was on television before, but only after the last celebrity one which hooked me in have I succumbed to the urge to watch it properly.
And I’ve not been disappointed once – how can I be? Cakes, breads, pies, tarts, loaves, pastries, deserts… every week I am literally in food-via-television-porn as I’ve been marvelling in awe at the sheer skill and talent of the contestants on TGBBO and what they produce in timed tasks for judges and professional bakers, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
One of the great appeals about TGBBO is no doubt how well-behaved the contestants are and how refreshing it is to see this on television. Let’s be honest; a kitchen is arguably one of the most stressful environments to be in without the added pressure of two master-bakers waiting in the wings to crush your cake-making skills with just one taste. Mary and Paul take absolutely no prisoners when another baker is voted off every week, and they shouldn’t either – the level of talent with these amateur bakers is stellar so the standard is high. Who doesn’t feel a huge surge of emotion when a contestant manages to pull themselves out of the not-up-to-competition-standard bin in one task after baking a rather watery crème caramel in the previous round, by creating a masterpiece of art that is their key lime pie? This programme has everything for me without any of the sensationalism, back-stabbing and glaringly obvious Dr Frankenstein fever that The X Factor does. And it’s got Mel and Sue wittily presenting. Fantastic stuff.
And so onto The X Factor. Each week I can’t believe a) I am giving it time out of my life, and b) that there are still some people who believe TXF is as genuine as it used be. The press scream most weeks that the only difference in the way John Merrick was treated and the way the ‘more unique’ contestants on the TXF are treated is that the latter is televised. The judges’ line-up has had more changes than the Sugababes’ and very little air time in the programme seems to be devoted to the actual singing part anymore. Sure, it’s key Saturday night entertainment and clearly ITV still have a lot of faith in it, but year after year I find I have less patience with it than the previous year and there is only so much of TXF‘s contestants’ ridiculous saccharine-coated personal stories of triumph over adversity I can take. What with the BBC’s rival The Voice not quite setting the world on fire earlier this year, perhaps television companies need to start asking themselves if there is much call for TV talent shows anymore, and as with all phases perhaps we’ve moved on if the dropping audience figures of TXF are anything to go by. As they say on Twitter, #justsayin.
One thing’s for sure, we’re not in 2004 anymore and I am beginning to wonder how much longer TXF will be able to keep going with declining viewers. The Great British Bake Off’s soufflé is rising to perfection, while The X Factor’s stage is crumbling. My money’s on Mary and Paul.