In case you had any doubts about just how important The Great British Baking Show has become to the health of the nation's psyche, rest assured.
Poet Amanda Gorman, the rising star in the world of letters who's been credited with no less than reviving America's collective spirit thanks to the poem she read at President Joe Biden's inauguration, spent a lot of her mandated stay-at-home time during the COVID-19 pandemic binge-watching the show on Netflix.
So there you go. No word on whether it was a dozen perfect éclairs, perfectly proved baguettes or cakes in the shape of an inspirational person's head that served as the direct conduit to the 22-year-old's soaring words, but consider her soul soothed.
Gorman's, and countless others.
The show was already four years into its run in the U.K. when it first premiered in the U.S. in 2014, a curious new confection airing before Masterpiece and other assorted prestige programming on Sundays. Slowly at first, because it always takes a beat to spread the word, and then all at once—audiences on this side of the pond fell in love with judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins and the top-notch amateur bakers ages 17 to contestants old enough to be that teenager's great-grandparent. Every week they emotionally and intensely—but also politely and supportively—battle it out each week for the title of "star baker" and, ultimately, the championship.
Mixers whir, chocolate tempers and dough rises, challenge after challenge, and in the end, the winner gets... a small glass cake stand.
Because it's not about money, people. It's about challenging yourself, testing your limits, staying cool under pressure, and proving that you and your baking know-how are enough. (Which you always are, even if it's just not your day in the tent.)
Naturally, we wanted it for our own, as evidenced by the rise of The Great American Baking Show, which premiered in 2015 on ABC and was perfectly edible.
But nothing, nothing, could compare to the charm of the original, nine seasons (or series, or collections) of which are streaming now on Netflix and, even if you know who wins in the end, are endlessly rewatchable.
Yet while the finished product has served as the perfect balm for these stressful times, The Great British Baking Show is still a complicated production, one that requires everything to come together just so, and that's before the human errors—the nicked fingers, curdled custards, soggy bottoms and baked Alaska in the bin—can be captured along with the winning confections.
Not to mention, the past decade has seen beloved faces leave the tent and a controversial jump to another channel. Really, the heaping helping of drama could have deflated a lesser entertainment, but somehow this winning recipe has remained intact, through summer storms, 37-degree heat (Celcius, that is) and the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, while we wait for our next treat and, in lieu of sharing a slice of cake with birthday boy Paul, who's turning 55 on March 1, it's time to peek between the layers of The Great British Baking Show:
The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings (season three), TGBBS collections 1-8 (seasons four through 11, though not quite in that order), TGBBS Holidays and TGBBS Masterclass are all streaming on Netflix. Plus, you can watch episodes on PBS and PBS Living.
Seriously, just go find it.
(Originally published Jan. 30, at 3 a.m. PT)