Twenty four hours after it was first shown on our TV screens, this week’s episode of Bake Off was still the most-read story on BBC news. The speculation is flowing thick and fast, and the twitter tags are still being added to. Scrolling through my Facebook, it seems every other status is related – complete with comments such as ‘Diana should be baked into one of her own cakes’; ‘I would have thrown it in her face’ and ‘shifty old saboteur’.
I have been an avid watcher of the Bake Off since series one. My friend Rosalyn and I used to use MSN to discuss it as it aired (this was long before either of us had heard of Twitter), and my boyfriend bought me a copy of ‘The Great British Book of Baking’ for Christmas, which is still my most-used cook book to this day. It was a show apart from other cooking programmes – devoid of sensationalist drama – featuring a small group of people baking in a tent. There was bunting. There was cake. There was a pair of smiling, silver-haired judges, and painfully amusing puns.
All of this is still true, apart from, unfortunately, the part about it lacking sensationalist drama. It seems that with each new series the drama becomes bigger – last year, finalist Ruby Tandoh was forced to defend herself against accusations of ‘manipulating the judges’ and ‘flirting’ with Paul Hollywood. Social media allowed everyone to have their say in the matter, and Ruby became something of a ‘marmite’ contestant because of it; however, the programme itself did nothing to enhance any negative views. Viewers were shown (what appeared to be) an honest representation of events, and drew their own conclusions from this.
This doesn’t seem to be the case this year.
This week’s episode shows Iain going to retrieve his baked alaska, only to discover it’s been removed from the freezer and left to melt. Diana then said it had been in her freezer, so she had taken it out to make room for her own pudding. Cue Iain removing the tin holding his alaska together, and revealing a melted, sloppy mess. In a fit of passion he then dropped the offending pudding into the bin as his temper exploded, and then the internet did the same.
Twitter hashtags of #BringIainBack #bingate #alaskagate #justiceforIain and worst, #DirtyDiana are still being added to:
While Sue Perkins and Paul Hollywood have tried to calm the storm:
The most frequently occurring complaint is that Diana ‘didn’t even say sorry’, but the thing is, she probably did. Despite Sue and Paul’s efforts, and an interview with Diana herself stating that the facts have been manipulated by the programme’s editors, this has done nothing to quell the fury of the internet. At the end of the day, ‘Sensational Showstopper Sabotage!’ has a much better ring to it than ‘innocent mistake with some ice cream’, and with today’s additional news that Diana does not return for next week’s show for health reasons, the cries of ‘a guilty conscience!’ are already rampant.
The thing that gets me is that Iain was sent home at the end of it. In 2012, John Whaite – who went on to win the show – was forced to withdraw from a showstopper challenge after cutting himself. At the end of the round, he couldn’t present anything to the judges, and it was decided that, to be fair, no one would be sent home that week. So why is this different? Arguably, Iain’s spur-of-the-moment decision to bin his pudding was up to him, but it comes down to the same thing.
As the viewers were given their insight into what the judges’ decisions may be, Sue stated ‘you’ve got two people who have put themselves in trouble, by their bakes, and by their actions, and you have to work out at the end of the day what’s more important’. I interpreted this as meaning Iain would be safe, because on a baking programme, shouldn’t baking be the most important thing? But apparently this was not the case.
As a viewer who watches the Bake Off for the comforting, kitschy fun, it’s so disappointing to see the show become deliberately sensationalised. At the end of the day it’s a programme about baking – if I wanted drama, I’d watch Eastenders! I’m hoping some of the mess and confusion surrounding this week’s episode will be cleared up in ‘An Extra Slice’ tomorrow, so we can all go back to demolishing cake instead of the people baking it.