Sunday, October 14, 2012

Honking Box Preview: The Great British Bake-Off

Just as a round-up of the hapless X Factor condemnees ahead of the Live Shows has become a yearly tradition, a spot of gushing ‘n’ guesswork prior to the final of The Great British Bake-Off is too becoming ritual. And with Series Three coming to an climax this week, it’s time to chew over (and swallow, cos only a complete fucking bonehead would spit out cake) this year’s platter of finalists.

From early shock evictees in the form of Victoria, to week-on-week skin-of-the-teeth survivors in the form of Ryan and Manisha, the selection of characters has once again been outstanding. But special mention must go to Cathryn, who began the competition as a trembling, don’t-look-at-me dormouse, before slowly morphing into some sort of apron-clad valkyrie, facing down Paul Hollywood’s judgements with egalitarian sass.

But, as ever, we’re left with three. However, whereas previous years have seen a general three-horse race for the prize, this year there’s been a clear leader from the outset. Perfect Brendan, whose lone hiccup throughout the series was during the semi-final, when one rogue strawberry half dared to droop out of its pristine custard gulag, is the obvious favourite, with an unyielding – almost robotic – determination to win. (And what Brendan did to the aforementioned strawberry’s family in cold vengeance for its foolish audacity cannot ever be uttered.)

Far more interesting finalists come in the form of John and James, interestingly the two youngest contestants, in contrast to Brendan being the oldest. Brendan’s precision and perfection and infallible skill come from years of flour-dusted trial-and-errors, a million miles away from James and his constant wing-it approach. But when his results are good, they’re very, very good indeed.

John, while likeable and a gifted baker, has perhaps had the least consistent performance across the series. But he’s entertained splendidly: calling John a wily minx; his cheeks acting as a redscale to indicate his level of flusteredness; attempting a gingerbread Coliseum AND PULLING IT OFF. He’s been good, but he’s most likely a bronze medallist.

It’s hard to see James, even with his inventiveness and quirkiness and knitted owl mascot, being picked over Brendan in black-and-white terms, but Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry can be hard to predict. And it makes for quite a final: a millimetre-precise, accomplished baker with throwback appeal; or a more haphazard, but hugely exciting, innovator.

Regardless, it’ll make for a fitting end to what’s been a gripping and entertaining series. And while, on paper, such words applied to a baking competition defies all kinds of logic, the execution has been truly brilliant. And to tide us over until the fourth series, we’ll amuse ourselves by playing YouTube clips of Mel and Sue saying the word “strudel” on repeat.

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