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“The Great British Baking Show” successfully mixes things up in series eight

Rating: 4 Stars

Everyone has different coping mechanisms, or vices for when life gets stressful and a distraction is needed. For the first two years of my college career, I found a reprieve from the chaos of classes in the light-hearted British baking competition entitled “The Great British Baking Show.” This semester was no different, and the launch of the show’s eighth series on Netflix Aug. 31 allowed me to start my year off right.

Fans’ anticipation of series eight was matched with a fair amount of concern when it was announced that there would be many changes to the show. After seven years broadcasting on BBC, the show’s production company, Love Productions, decided to move to Channel 4. However, the changes weren’t limited to off-camera elements and involved major changes to the show’s core cast.

A hallmark of the original series was the witty banter, comical skits, and sincere compassion of its two hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. The comedy duo broke up the stressful challenges seamlessly, making the show playful, adding helpful commentary for the audience and supporting the competitors.

Series eight introduced two new hosts, Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig, who swiftly rose to the standards set by their predecessors. Fielding, known for his work on “The Mighty Boosh” and “The IT Crowd,” reinvented the show’s comedic energy which, while at first gave me pause, won me over by the end of the series.

The only change that I didn’t feel met my expectations was the replacement of judge Mary Berry. In its first seven years, Berry provided the show with a cheeky balance to her co-host Paul Hollywood. Their chemistry seemed irreplaceable and, while Prue Leith proved to be an excellent judge, I don’t think she filled the void left by Berry’s absence.

However, Berry isn’t out of reach. In May of this year, Berry premiered in a new series titled “Britain’s Best Home Cook,” using her judicial talents alongside chef Dan Doherty and Chris Bavin.

Paul Hollywood, the only thing untouched by the show’s turn over other than its format and location, seemed unphased by the transition. He walked around the tent discussing the quality of bakes with competitors and giving out blessed handshakes to those whose work he admired.

The competitors provided a interesting set of personalities and talents. My personal favorite being Liam Charles, nicknamed “Cake Boy,” the youngest competitor of the series at 19 years old. After the series ended, he was asked to co-host one a spin-off titled “Bake Off: The Professionals” and also published a cookbook titled “Cheeky Treats: 70 Brilliant Bakes and Cakes.”

The competition brought back many classic challenges, such as Cake week, Biscuit week and Pâtisserie week. My favorite reoccurring challenge is Bread week, and this series did not disappoint. For their signature challenge, the bakers were instructed to make 12 teacakes, followed by a cottage loaf for their technical, and for the showstopper challenge they were asked to make a multicolored bread sculpture with natural food coloring.

I believe the new series stood up to its former glory because of one element that wasn’t changed by the new cast and station, a true desire for everyone to enjoy themselves and do their best. The energy of the competition it’s cutthroat, it’s very communal and compassionate.

With five of the shows’ most recent series available on Netflix, there is plenty of content to binge the next time you are searching for brain candy. Experience both the new and the old versions of the show and decide for yourself if you are team Berry or team Leith.

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