New Zealand finally gets its own version of The Great British Bake Offby Russell Brown
In a reality-television landscape riven with cruelty, the popular Bake Off competition is actually nice to people.
If you’re not familiar with the British-born TV juggernaut, it’s an elimination cooking show that, in a reality-television landscape riven with cruelty, is actually nice to people. And it works. Over nine seasons, The Great British Bake Off has won the kind of mass audiences usually the preserve of football internationals and become part of British culture. There have been sewing and pottery versions and the original show has been screened in 200 countries. This week, New Zealand becomes the 28th territory to license the format and make its own Bake Off.
Madeleine Sami takes on a key unwritten part of the format: the funny and relatable lesbian, as played by Sue Perkins and Sandi Toksvig in The Great British Bake Off and Mel Buttle in the Australian version. We trust she’ll approach this important role with the lack of gravity it deserves – and that she and her co-cost Hayley Sproull will represent New Zealand well in delivering another key element of the format: the gently smutty innuendo.
The pair didn’t know each other well before the show, but have now become, according to Sproull, “inseparable sisters who hate it when the other person goes to the toilet because it means we can’t hang out”. So, that’s going well.
They’re joined by the judges, global baking impresario Dean Brettschneider and catering queen Sue Fleischl, who, according to Sami, offer “a perfect mix of professionalism and naughtiness”.
The 12 bakers who line up in the first show hail from Invercargill to Auckland. There’s a spin doctor, a body piercer, a flight attendant, a competitive bodybuilder and a teacher. Over 10 weeks, they’ll be challenged with cakes, pastries, loaves and more cakes.
If the experience in other countries is anything to go by, their efforts will move New Zealand viewers to get baking themselves. In Britain, sales of baking gear and ingredients rose sharply and membership of the Women’s Institute reached its highest level since the 1970s. Truly, there is everything to bake for.
The Great Kiwi Bake Off will also be available on TVNZ OnDemand, along with behind-the-scenes show The Great Kiwi Bake Off: An Extra Slice.
This article was first published in the October 13, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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