Masterchef for bakers, basically. But a lot more friendly than that sounds. Hosted by comedians Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and judged by Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. The show has been credited with single-handedly reviving baking in Britain, having inspired a huge increase in participants - along with the inevitable economic implications, through cookery classes, books, etc.Having spent its first four series on BBC 2, the fourth receiving the best ratings yet (and by that, we mean the best ratings for a regular series on that channel in at least twenty years) means the fifth onwards are to be shown on BBC 1.
Tastes strongly of these tropes:
Berserk Button: For Paul, any basic mistake such as missing an ingredient (as David did in episode four of series 1, when he missed the eggs from the technical challenge (a souffle)) pretty much means you're out of the competition. The episode in question was framed to make it look as if there was more to it than that, but Paul's anger at the error was completely clear, especially at the end.
Blatant Lies: James's claim in the biscuit week of series 3 that his derelict gingerbread barn was the intended outcome. That he showed Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue, and the audience the plans for the intact barn show he isn't fooling anyone. Except perhaps Paul, who genuinely seemed to think he might have been leading them on with the complete version.
Brendan in series 3 made it to the final having been pretty much perfect in every week, only not being Star Baker every week due to moments of genius from the other contestants (James in particular). His safe but efficient style wasn't enough in the final, but his being there was almost guaranteed from the start.
Arguably Ruth, the runner-up of series one, who was so calm and composed, she would often finish ahead of time while everyone else was rushing to meet the deadline.
And perhaps 2013 finallist Kimberley as well, who showed few weaknesses in the contest but ended up on the wrong side of a Technician Versus Performer battle with Frances.
The weekly "star baker" title confers absolutely no prize or benefit to the recipient whatsoever.
The overall series title is also a Bragging Rights Reward, though at least the winner gets a trophy. The exposure and associations of having won such a competition can bring their own rewards, of course.
Brutal Honesty: Paul can and will tell contestants their creations are completely and utterly awful. Mary almost always sugarcoats to some degree, knowing that Paul will get the message across anyway.
Buttmonkey: Poor Howard in series 4. He accidently cut his fingers in week one, Sue flattened his muffins in the second week, then Deborah mistaked his custard for hers and put it on her trifle before realising it was his (to be fair she was mortified and he was allowed to use hers). He forgave Deborah and Sue but he did wish for one uneventful bake.
Call Back: Weirdly, a reference to "the Bake Off squirrel" in the first episode of series 4. This was a callback to a brief cutaway shot included in the final of series 2, of a squirrel displaying rather prominent male genitalia (shots of squirrels near the tent had featured as scene-setting throughout that series, but this particular shot had clearly been held back for the final). When a contestant chose to decorate her cake with icing squirrels, Mel suggested that the one on top be tranformed into "the Bake Off squirrel" by the addition of two large nuts. The contestant (Frances) acquiesced to this, though it's not entirely clear she'd got the reference.
Carrying a Cake: Or carrying a cake mix, anyway. Luckily, when things end up on the floor, it's usually early enough in the round to start over.
Cooking Duel: Strictly speaking there's no one-on-one duels, though it's quite common for two particularly bad bakers to be desperately fighting for survival, with everyone else more or less safe, in the showstopper challenge.
Double Entendre: Paul's obssession with looking for moisture affecting the crispness of pastry bases - "soggy bottoms". Mel and Sue don't exactly dissuade him from using the term at every possible opportunity, and will do so themselves if he doesn't.
Mel and Sue didn't do the voiceovers in the first series, a male narrator, Stephen Noonan, did them instead.
The first series took the contestants all over the country - to places as far apart as Mousehole in Cornwall and Scone in Perth & Kinross. This aspect was dropped from subsequent series as it was pretty much pointless.
Although the "showstopper" has always been the final round, it didn't gain the name until series 2. In the first series it was just called "the final challenge".
The "star baker" award didn't get introduced until series 2.
Elimination Statement: And also by those who came closest to elimination but survived, implying they are flat out told this. Even if they aren't, they usually know anyway and the judges are frequently seen saying things like "You'd better improve for next week or you're gone" as the camera pans away after the result.
Everythings Better With Chocolate: A common choice, though the difficulty in baking with it (particularly with bread) is noted and contestants have met with mixed success. Naturally, the judges enjoy including particularly difficult tasks that require chocolate, such as tempered chocolate, as part of the technical challenges.
Follow the Leader: The Great British Sewing Bee, launched in 2013 (during replays of the first three series from the beginning, no less) is very obviously an imitator. Of course, it's made by the same company (who don't seem to make much else).
Foreshadowing: In the biscuit episode in series 3, James notes after the first round that everyone relies on luck to some degree, him more than most. In the episode's showstopper challenge, he miraculously turns a gingerbread barn that has fallen apart into a gingerbread derelict barn. It isn't clear if Paul has even noticed it was a patch-up job (he said that it was perfect if intended, and great even if it wasn't), and it wins him star baker.
Friendly Rivalry: The contestants almost never show any antagonism towards each other, being incredibly friendly and helpful. In one incident in series 1, David's oven shorted out and Ruth offered to share her own (which would have hurt her own cooking due to having to open the oven door more than necessary), though it didn't ultimately prove necessary to do so. Sarah-Jane and Cathryn in series 3 became close enough that they actually went into business together after the show ended.
Done as a "showstopper challenge" in series 3 (although it was specified that the building itself should not be a house, leading to the aforementioned gingerbread barn, a bird house and a Roman coliseum).
Returned in series 4, though "structure" wasn't specified, leading to, of all things, a gingerbread [[Doctor Who Dalek.
Golden Snitch: Defied Trope - at least in theory. The format is such that a disaster in one task need not prove fatal if the other two are done well. It did happen in the middle of series 3, however - Ryan was heading towards the exit after a disastrous first day, only for his key lime pie showstopper to prove so amazingly excellent that he was named star baker that week, ahead of bakers who had consistently delivered in all three rounds. Paul and Mary have also admitted in the past that the showstopper is all that separates the contestants, though contestants in the bottom half of the technical challenge are automatically candidates for elimination.
Gratuitous French: The semi-final of series 4 was French Week. Naturally, Mel and Sue added French to virtually ever sentence they spoke in the episode.
Hurricane of Puns: The hosts spend much of their time coming up with ways to pun on the theme of the episode.
Product Placement: Defied Trope per BBC rules, which didn't stop the show getting in trouble for showing the logo of the fridges too prominently by mistake. A deal was reached whereby the editing would be fixed and the makers would stop advertising themselves "as seen on the Great British Bakeoff" on their website.
Paul's obssession with "soggy bottoms" in any challenge involving pastry (which is quite a lot of them). He checks for it first chance he gets, and will call the contestants on it.
Mel and Sue's bizarre accents and intonations when declaring "On your marks, get set, bake", frequently elongating the last word. By the end of series four, the notion of the word being pronounced normally was a long-forgotten memory.
Self-Deprecation: Fairly often among contestants who know they're doing badly, but most famously by Ruby repeatedly in series 4. The hosts and judges had to tell her to stop doing it, a lesson that only briefly set in before returning at most two episodes later.
And the hosts, especially Sue, who frequently hangs a lampshade on how bad her puns are.
Technician Versus Performer: Part of the format, since the signature bake allows for and the showstopper requires elaborate decoration according to the baker's own tastes, whereas the technical challenge is all about uniformity and strict accordance to the recipe. There are however specific examples from the series:
Brendan (Technician) versus James (Performer) in series three. The pair were consistently the best bakers in the series, although ultimately they both lost out to John.
Lucy in series 4 made very plain breadsticks ("Grissini with Salt") in the Signature round in the hope that the judges would be impressed with the technical qualities, whilst everybody else was trying much more elaborate recipes. She did this because she knew bread was a weak spot and so concentrated on getting it technically right, rather than being showy - unfortunately, she didn't get it right and, following a similar problem in the Showstopper round with a roasted tomato and garlic bread loaf, she was eliminated.
And in the final of that series, Kimberley (Technician) vs Frances (Performer).
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Each series ends by revealing what all the contestants - including those eliminated as early as the first round - are doing. Generally this means becoming bakers (or otherwise working in some sort of baking-related area) for contestants eliminated later, and a bit more community baking for the less successful. There have also been a couple of proper standalone Where Are They Now shows.