So, is that it? The end of sweetness, and the end of taste? Physically speaking, those things will no doubt carry on, when The Great British Bake Off moves to Channel 4 next year. We’ll still take vicarious pleasure in the mouthwatering sweetness of someone’s ‘crème pat’. The taste of lavender will still ‘come through’ in a contestant’s 12 identical puff pastry miniatures. But I’m referring to the abstracts: the sweetness, and the taste. I fear that those might have gone for ever.
With Britain tearing itself apart this summer and autumn, one half being sarcastic and nasty about the other half all the time, the weekly hour-long patch of sweetness and taste that is the BBC’s Great British Bake Off has become something to treasure, and indeed to live for. It’s not only the perpetually intriguing chemistry of the baking, it’s also, crucially, the life-enhancing chemistry between the four hosts that holds our attention and makes us crave and love the programme. Not just a few of us, either: 11 million of us each week; and not just National Trust old dears in flowery armchairs, but highflyers and cynics of all ages, all of whom are disarmed, relaxed and somehow made nicer by the programme’s innocence and charm.
Telling us that the GBBO might be just as good with new hosts is like telling a child that the Christmas holidays will be just as nice when Mummy and Daddy get divorced. We know it’s not true. And, like those children, we ask ourselves, ‘Why do grown-ups always have to mess things up?’ The programme was trundling along perfectly well until adult greed gripped the souls of the people at Love Productions, who refused to accept the BBC’s offer of £15 million and went for Channel 4’s offer of £25 million.