The Great British Saturation Point: is the Bake Off recipe going stale?


Even though it is brand new, BBC Two’s All That Glitters will be immediately familiar to anyone who has watched television in the past decade. This is because All That Glitters is The Great British Bake Off, but jewellery. The day after it airs, a new series of The Great British Sewing Bee begins. As we all know, The Great British Sewing Bee is The Great British Bake Off, but clothes. Next week, the latest series of the Glow Up starts. That’s right, Glow Up is The Great British Bake Off, but makeup.

Whisper it, but there is a chance that we may be reaching The Great British Saturation Point.

All That Glitters certainly suggests this. On the surface, it hits all the Bake Off points perfectly. There are challenges and judges. There are contestants who have been parsed for niceness. There is the ubiquitous, twee plinky-plonk music that makes you wish you had invested in big marimba a decade ago.

But it is about high-end jewellery, a pursuit that requires years of training and several thousand pound’s worth of specialist equipment. The joy of Bake Off is that the entry bar is low. Most people, at one point or another, have tried to make a cake. Meanwhile, the first All That Glitters challenge is making three distinct but complimentary bangles out of raw silver, which – and this is just a hunch – may not be a universal experience.

Worse still, the contestants are given only three hours to do it. Why? This sort of arbitrary pressure works on, say, MasterChef, because it is just food. However badly it goes, you will slide your dish in front of Gregg Wallace and he will wobble his eyes and slap his tummy and make a noise like a foghorn and it will be gone in 30 seconds. Meanwhile, if you screw up a silver bangle because you had only three hours to make it and you were panicking, that bangle is doomed to exist in the world for ever. Why not give them longer and let them make a nicer thing?

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But, look: nobody is going to blame All That Glitters for jumping on a trend, because it is only going where millions of other shows have gone before. In fact, there are now so many Bake Off imitations that no one could possibly watch them all. Here is a quick guide, but I won’t claim that it is definitive. There simply isn’t enough space on the internet to list them all.

The best

The Great Pottery Throw Down: The Great British Bake Off, but vases
Like Bake Off, The Great Pottery Throw Down has bounced between channels, from BBC Two to Channel 4. However, unlike Bake Off, this happened because the BBC didn’t want it any more. This is a shame, because pottery is the perfect activity for this sort of show. Cheap, low stakes and a high potential for disaster. The best of the lot.

The Great British Sewing Bee: The Great British Bake Off, but clothes
Top contender, by dint of the fact that it was one of the first shows to see the potential in apeing the Bake Off format. It isn’t quite part of the culture in the same way that Bake Off is, but it is still pretty good.

The Big Flower Fight: The Great British Bake Off, but foliage
Your first thought when you heard of this show was: “I would rather dead-head all my plants than watch a competitive flower arrangement show,” but it is worth giving this a chance. Not least because, in Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou, it has the best hosts of the genre.

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Blown Away: The Great British Bake Off, but glass
Blown Away suffers from the same problems as All That Glitters – no layperson is going to start blowing decorative glass – but it succeeds because whoever invented all the glassblowing terminology was clearly a pervert of the highest order. The only show on this list to feature multiple glory holes.

Nailed It: The Great British Bake Off, but crap
Nailed It takes Bake Off’s subtext and makes it text: its contestants are bad at baking and everything they cook is bad. It is a nice, goofy inversion of the formula, best enjoyed in small doses.

Making It: The Great British Bake Off, but Parks and Recreation
Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler present a craft-based Bake Off alternative. What is good about this show is the breadth of expertise required: in season one, contestants had to make terrariums, toys, Halloween costumes and party seating.

The worst

The Great Interior Design Challenge: The Great British Bake Off, but the inside of people’s houses
A desperate attempt to shoehorn Changing Rooms into the Bake Off boom, this show asked contestants to renovate a room in someone’s house, or shop, or hotel. Then they leave, landing some poor sap with a crap room. Dismal.

The Big Allotment Challenge: The Great British Bake Off, but dirt
A show that felt like it was commissioned after a game of Pin the Tail on the Bake Off Rip-Off Donkey. In this programme, people planted some seeds, then the seeds grew over a matter of months and it was somehow Bake Off.

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Britain’s Best Home Cook: The Great British Bake Off, but The Great British Bake Off
When Bake Off departed the BBC for the more lucrative shores of Channel 4, Mary Berry left the show. The BBC created Britain’s Best Home Cook to solve two problems: filling the Bake Off hole and giving Berry something to do. The results were horrible. This show is to Bake Off what the clay Lionel Richie head from the Hello video is to Lionel Richie’s real head.

The Chop: The Great British Bake Off, but Nazis
Lee Mack and Rick Edwards hosted this carpentry-based Bake Off clone, which was cancelled after one episode after viewers noticed that the head of one contestant was covered in the sort of tattoos usually reserved for Nazi extremists. Which, in fairness, isn’t something you could say of The Great Pottery Throw Down.



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