In Summary

By: Christopher Kingsley

My blog, Food & Television, was credited expressly for Global News and World Culture 4790 at Middle Tennessee State University. My blog has been centered on the phenomenon of The Great British Bake Off and how it has taken off worldwide and what it continues to bring to the realms of both reality television and cooking. The reason why I chose the topics I did was because I thought they were, at the time, relevant and news worthy. Even at the end of the semester and this wonderful class, BBC is continually in the news.

BBC brings reality TV and food together

An article published in August, 2015 in The Week really does highlight why the show is such a huge, delicious success.

One of the reason that The Great British Bake Off is such a success is pretty simple. According to BBC commissioning editor, Clare Paterson, one of the reasons that the show is such a hit, to her, is that is such a feel good show, “what’s not to like about it? It’s something viewers can sit down and watch with coffee and buns and laugh at the puns. It’s just incredibly lovable. There’s something about it that makes people feel good.”

I also like the fact that the show also demonstrates that people of so many walks of life can bake or become brilliant home bakers. Watching the show and seeing people baking spurs interest and gets people interested in baking. Eleanor Doughty states, “spending time in the kitchen can be hugely therapeutic, and for many, baking is done as ‘therapy’.”

The show is a big influencer. I have found that introducing people to the show has spawned very positive reactions. For example, I introduced both my mother and my husband, Cleve to GBBO when it was first introduced to American audiences on PBS last year. Since watching the fifth season of the show, interest within my own family has taken off. My husband, who works more then seventy hours a week, thoroughly enjoys baking. He has started a blog dedicated to baking his way through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible cookbook published by BBC Books, entitled Novice Bakers on WordPress. Even my mother who is extraordinarily busy herself has been persuaded, by the hit show, to go back into the kitchen and start baking again.

Ultimately, I wanted to showcase how wonderfully put together the show truly is. The BBC in many ways is upholding its end of the Royal Charter that Queen Elizabeth II approved of in 2006 that the BBC “…must display at least one of the following characteristics in all content: high quality, originality, innovation, to be challenging and to be engaging.”

I find that GBBO truly hits that on the head. The show is original, innovative, challenging and very engaging. However, the corporation itself is facing a myriad of problems.

BBC’s budget shortfall…..

BBC is facing a budget shortfall of $225 million U.S. dollars due to a gap in license income, due to an, “increase in the number of households saying they do not watch live TV so do not pay for a license.” According to an article on BBC.com, the corporation is facing job cuts and more to shore up the revenue loss.

The BBC also states that, “The BBC license fee of £145.50 has been frozen for seven years, and the process of charter renewal  is getting under way, which will decide how the BBC is run when its current royal charter runs out at the end of 2016.”

The BBC also made the decision to give their BBC Three channel the axe. Instead, the channel will be on the internet from February. The channel, which debuted in 2003, has been the home of popular shows like Family Guy and Orphan Black. Taking the channel off the air would result in a 50 percent cut in programming.

Despite a SaveBBC3 petition gaining 300,000 signatures, the powers that be at the BBC confirmed this fall that they would take the channel off the air.

In a proposal from January 2015, the BBC makes it clear the need to reinvent itself, “Younger audiences are increasingly engaging with new forms of content on multiple digital platforms on and off the BBC and it’s vital the BBC develops the skills to produce this content and ensure we can make it available on all relevant third party platforms.” Let’s hope their decision pays off.

BBC’s New Subscription Service, a big gamble.

Over-the-top television is extraordinarily popular and successful. Netflix and Amazon produce extraordinarily popular shows like Netflix House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s own Transparent are shows that are prime examples of shows that have given traditional cable companies the slip.

The BBC is breaking down geoblocking for fans in the United States. Announced in September, BBC announced that “over-the-top” video service would be online in 2016, offering “programmes they [Americans] wouldn’t otherwise get – showcasing British actors, our-programme-makers- and celebrating our culture” said BBC director, Lord Tony Hall

One of the biggest concerns I have over the new subscription fee. The Licensing Fee is still active in the UK and according to Lord Hall, “We need to raise commercial income to supplement the license fee so we can invest as much as possible in content for UK audiences, without that income, we can’t continue what we already do for the UK in drama or natural history.”  One of my biggest concerns is that if I am interested in the BBC Subscription, will a viewer have full access to the full spectrum of BBC One, Two, Three, etc. I enjoy circumnavigating the British geographic block of my IP and watch BBC content via VPN, because it’s the only real way to watch not only British content that is put online, but also watching it in real-time.

To be perfectly honest, I would gladly pay for a subscription fee for full access to BBC content, however, I do not see that happening any time soon – even with the new subscription service coming online.

What I hope the BBC subscription service will do is, perhaps, alleviate the annoyance that U.S. fans of BBC America feel when they see back-to-back episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation instead of new content that is seen on any of the four BBC television channels.

Holiday Baking

By: Christopher Kingsley

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and the countdown to Christmas has begun. Christmas decorations, trees, ornaments and lights are coming out en masse.

What I love about this time of year is getting ready for the holidays. Planning the menu for Thanksgiving, getting the oven ready for lots of tasty treats and goodies. However, one of the aspects that I don’t really care for, in regards to food and television, is the huge amount of holiday themed cooking shows and competitions.

Schmaltz overload

I was watching Food Network earlier this week and one of the holiday themed cooking competitions and Christmas Cake Wars, caught my eye, for the wrong reasons.

Hosted by Jonathan Bennett, the show is described like this, “this six-week battle for holiday glory will bring together seven teams of the best-ever food artists, each set to face off for the $50,000 prize. ….From hilariously festive ugly Christmas sweaters to over-the-top gingerbread houses, there will be no shortage of seasonal celebrations — and, of course, fierce culinary chops — on display.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of having all these cake bakers competing for $50k, surrounded by an overdecorated set just does not fill me with any yuletide joy what-so-ever.

What ever happened to making truly inspired creations for Christmas? I’m sorry but having teams of bakers make a cake to look like Olaf from the Disney film, Frozen is NOT in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. Seriously.

That is the episode I saw on Sunday and I just not impressed at all.*

Help me, Mary Berry! You’re my only hope!

But, there is still hope! I was sent a surprise in an email yesterday. Apparently, ABC is showing a holiday edition of GBBO, entitled The Great Holiday Baking Show. 

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Nadiya is so right!!!

Stop the press! Wait, shouldn’t PBS be doing that not ABC? Well, it seems as if ABC wants to revive the idea of an American version of The Great British Bake Off as judged by Mary Berry herself.

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That’s a great idea but wouldn’t that hurt the loyal viewership PBS has cultivated since they introduced the hit show last year?! Perhaps not.

I don’t think anything matters at this point. I am SO happy ABC is tackling getting the bake off back on American television screens. It is sad that the first try didn’t take, but there’s always next time, right?!

The timing could not be anymore perfect! Thanksgiving is November, 26th and my last day of class is the first week of December. I swear, I am so happy right now!

The Great Holiday Baking Show premiers November, 30th at 10:00pm
(what a horrid time slot, but oh well. I’ll watch anyway.)

Food Network, take notes… lots of notes!

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NOTE: **I originally wrote this post on November 17th.

 

Online for 30 days…

BBC has announced that they will begin Netflix still streaming next year. That is beyond wonderful news; however, in the same style, you will not be able to keep the stuff you rent, it disappears after so long. That is wonderful. Not. Instead, I really wish BBC would just allow fans of their programming in the US to purchase shows on iTunes. The Great British Bake Off is avaliable on iTunes; however, if you do not live in the UK or have a UK credit/debt or UK purchased iTunes gift card you’re out of luck.

Yet BBC is still onto something with a new idea that has just been launched, you can purchase great BBC content from the BBC store! According to an article on engadget, “Shows that you buy will always be available to stream through the site, whether you’re on a PC, laptop, mobile or tablet. BBC Store is also connected to iPlayer, so on the web you’ll find your new library in the “Purchasesd” sub-tab under My Programmes. Jumping between the two is a little clunky — thankfully the BBC has been working on dedicated apps to streamline the experience.” I enjoy streaming, truly I do, but I would much rather be able to have the content to keep. Since a fan is going to be purchasing the video content online anyway, why not be able to keep the content as long as you wish?

Author Nick Summers goes on saying, “Shows will still be available to stream for 30 days, and the smattering of content that’s been permanently archived will remain online, free to watch at any time.” I do not know why shows that you buy would be only available to watch for 30 days?! Would it make sense to have it available to watch forever?

According to Summers, “BBC Store isn’t a new concept and, right now, is far from complete.” I hope that the BBC Store will also be attached with the NEW subscription service that is going to debut next year. As much as I love BBC shows, I’m not too keen on paying double the price.

Great British Bake Off still charms

I’m not the only one who loves GBBO, apparently Amy McCarthy of Paste Magazine loves it too! Her article entitled, 5 Reasons Why The Great British Baking Show Is The Best Cooking Show Of All Time is probably the cutest article, gushing over the show, that I have ever read.

I particularly agree with what she says about a key aspect of the show itself, “…cooking show producers in the States have decided that a show needs drama to survive. Even when you’re just trying to watch someone duke it out in the Chopped kitchen, you’ve got to listen to their backstory and endure manufactured spats with the other competitors. On this show, you’ll frequently see competitors helping one another if they’ve got time left over, and there’s no animosity, real or cultivated, and that’s really refreshing.” That is so true! Cooking shows on the Food Network are so drama ridden and filled with so much stress and angst that watching GBBO is not only delightful but truly engaging. As the series goes on, whether you’re watching the show on PBS or catching it on BBC One, you connect with the contestants, you grow to like them and love them. Can you say that about a cooking competition on any other network? I don’t think so.

Where’s the originality?!

I don’t understand something, truly I do not. Where is the originality in food-based programming?

I understand that Food Network does baking and cooking championships all the time; however, my biggest complaint is that they all look the same.  Seriously, they do! The contestants seem the same, the set looks drab and boring, and the judges are the same faces. I do not understand.

Why have food competition shows become so boring?

Last night, I just happened to be flipping channels and stumbled upon the Halloween Baking Championships. Apart from the judges being in costume and the baking being marginally interesting, it was boring. I guess Great British Bake Off has spoiled me, but I just think the championship shows have really become stale.

Even on the food network site, a viewer commented that the show was awful and the Christmas and Spring baking competition shows were better. No, no. no! Sometimes there is just too much and I think Food Network is just “phoning” this stuff in now. The writing is boring, the hosts and judges are boring. I will ask again, where is the originality in television, especially with food?

I have no problem with food competitions, but I truly wish there was original thought behind it.  At least with GBBO there were different locations and different people each time. Here are just a few things I would change to the endless monotony of Food Network’s gluttony of competitive shows:

  • Make them longer – six or seven weeks
  • Change the location – get out of the studio with it’s silly lighting and awful decor, go on location. I’m sure Food Network could shell out some $$$ for a baking tent.
  • Simplify things – Keep it simple, but also make things challenging

Another thing that annoys me is the “in your face” marketing. Stores do it all the time. Now television is blasting viewers with Christmas promos. Halloween is this Saturday, and Thanksgiving is still weeks away. Why on earth am I seeing promos for Christmas episodes already?! Slow it down.

I have no problem with Halloween and baking. Sure, it is fun.. but could we at least spice it up? For example, how about a competition from a graveyard or a haunted house? Just some ideas.

As Seen on Bake Off

By: Christopher Kingsley

One of the fascinating things about reality cooking shows is seeing the various equipment and utensils that cooks work with, and television viewers subtly see various labels and such.

Paul and Mary’s mischievous grins.

On the Great British Bake Off, the cooking utensils and the oven even are stars in their own right. I may be incorrect in this, but cooking shows in the United States often hid or cover up what products and appliances they use to not give away show sponsors, etc? I could be completely off-base, but I do remember, in recent memory, seeing cooking shows on The Food Network with labels covered up on products, or labels removed all together.

Brilliant Baker, Nadiya

Not so on GBBO. In fact, a recent article from Which.co.uk says that sales of mixers and even the cute ovens used in the show are on the rise.  “The Neff B44M42N3GB single built-in oven comes with an innovative oven door which slides away into the oven base, giving you a bit more space in the kitchen.” Awesome! Even The Daily Mail has a great article about the ovens and other baking items.

More Baking Fun!

Another aspect of Bake Off that is very unique is the illustrations of what bakers are planning to do for various baking challenges. The illustrations are the work of Tom Hovey. According to an article in The Daily Mail, as the bakes get more difficult and intricate his job illustrating the bakes is getting more difficult, “…as the amateur chefs up the ante each year, showing off their te chnical flair in ever-more extravagant creations, the artist admits his job is getting harder.” I find it amazing that the illustrations often do really look like the finished product; however, there are moments when things go amiss and the final bake doesn’t match what the bakers originally thought.

The illustrations aside, it seems as GBBO progresses the baking challenges do get harder and more complex. Even with the complexities, I have often wondered how all the magic really does happen. Fortunately, buzzfeed.co.uk has done a list of 51 things that most people do not know about The Great British Bake Off. 

There are two facts that I am quite surprised by:

46. Last year’s Bake Off final was watched by 12.3 million people, compared with 12.1 million people who tuned in to watch last summer’s World Cup final on BBC1.

47. It also beat the final of The X Factor, which got 9.1 million views last year.

I guess it is safe to say that Bake Off is here to stay. It is rather sad that the American version of Bake Off never found an audience, but there is a report that ABC is eyeing bringing the show back to the United States. Since GBBO started in 2010, it has gained a following all over the globe. In fact, it is immensely popular worldwide, there are versions in France, The Netherlands, Turkey, Germany, Australia and even a junior version in Thailand!

Not just cakes

What it remarkable about the series is how wonderful the dynamic of the show is. Yes, it is a reality show and the contestants may just be baking tasty looking goodies, but The Great British Bake Off is more than that. It is truly an education in culinary art, respect, handling stress and pressure; being open to new ideas; and how to increase ones skills in not just the baking realm. There are so many positive aspects and takeaways from the show that can help the media world globally, just because people are baking doesn’t mean the show is not multidimensional. Just by watching the show I have learned a lot about myself and things that I need to work on in the professional world – how to handle stress better, now to not crack under pressure and for that I am very grateful.

On your mark, get set, BAKE!

The Sweet Smell of Sucess….yummy!

As the fall television season gets underway, PBS is showing new trailers for their second season of The Great British Baking Show. In reality, the sixth season of the Great British Bake Off is running on BBC One; however, the reality show/baking competition has gained quite the following here in the United States and for good reason.

The show is, quite honestly, one of the best reality cooking shows ever produced. Ever!

One can very easily forget about Food Network Star on the Food Network, which I have done. But what the Great British Bake Off has that other cooking reality shows do not is — a mixture of humor, wonderful judges, great hosts, and a fantastic location!

An article from The Daily Mail highlights why the show is such a success in this country, even if the American version, called “The American Baking Competition” was a complete ratings failure on CBS in 2013. The article online highlights why Americans are totally in love with the baking show, “Re-named the The Great British Baking Show, the program is fast gaining affection across the pond, in the United States,  with viewers seemingly fascinated by the English accents, endless stream of cake-related innuendos, and baking terms they’ve never heard before.” Now as I am an obsessive anglophile, I am not new to the great use of British humor. PBS viewers may also be accustomed to British humor,  as many stations across the country once ran the great the great UK comedies Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances in syndication in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Mary Berry is not amused!
Mary Berry is not amused!

Cake jokes and baking terms aside, there are several key reasons why The Great British Bake Off works in the United States (at least for me) – the judges are wonderful and exacting. Let us be honest, who can resist the looks that Mary Berry gives when she does not like a recipe or a contestant following directions? Paul Hollywood is both funny and yet serious when bakers try their skills at his own recipes. Oh, and who could not adore hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins whose jokes and comments give the show quite a lift. The last thing that makes the show for me is the location. The BBC is famous for their use of location shooting. Indeed, during the first season of the show, contestants did travel up and down the UK to very picturesque locales. Sadly, the traveling was stopped, possibly due to production costs. The show has called the beautiful Welford Park in Berkshire its home for the past several years now. No doubt lovers of the show will want to ascend upon the Park, as fans of another hot BBC/PBS property, now coming to a close, Downton Abbey have flocked in their thousands to Highclere Castle.

The Great British Bake Off has a wildly popular following on Tumblr. One of my favorite tumblrs can be found here. I would also do a search for other funny moments from past seasons.  Either way the BBC has a bonafide hit that had not only impressed British audiences but Americans alike.