Series: The Great British Bake Off

Sue, Mary, Paul, and Mel

Master Chef for bakers, basically. Eschewing the typical manufactured melodrama of many reality shows, the program takes a more lighthearted and friendlier approach towards competition with participants having to complete three baking challenges in each program before the poorest performer of the week is eliminated. Rather than being judged against one another, the participants are expected to build their own skills and noticeably improve their performances or maintain a consistent standard. Any drama that arises is generally because of individual mishaps or lack of time rather than interpersonal conflicts (though they have occasionally occurred).

Hosted by comedy double act 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 BBC2, 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 BBC1. Starting with the fifth series, each episode is accompanied by An Extra Slice, a follow-up hosted by Jo Brand that takes a humorous look at the latest episodes with various celebrities in front of a live audience.

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.
  • Boring Invincible Hero:
    • 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 vs. Performer battle with Frances.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • 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.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor Howard in series 4. He accidentally cut his fingers in week one (forcing him to drop out for that week after the gloves he was wearing were filled with blood while he kneaded his dough), Sue flattened his muffins in the second week, then Deborah mistook 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... though given it was Frances, she probably had.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase: Several.
    • "On your marks, get set - bake!" from Mel and Sue
    • "You've got a soggy bottom" and many variants, from Paul
  • Celebrity Edition: Runs in January for Comic/Sport Relief. The first series featured three 'heats' with the winners of each progressing to the final, whilst the second and third's episodes were each standalone competitions, with the third also having different substitute hosts for each episode as well.
  • Compassionate Critic: Paul always, and Mary sometimes.
  • 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.
    • Inevitable in any episode featuring tarts.
    • Successful Madeira cake should show a prominent crack. Mel and Sue pass up no opportunity for a crack-related comment.
    • Sue is generally very good at creating innuendos out of perfectly innocuous dishes.
    Sue: We've run this one past the double entendre department: for this week's technical challenge, you've got to make Paul and Mary a cream horn.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • 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.
    • Mary Berry wearing spectacles.
  • 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.
  • Everything's 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).
  • Food Porn: The show never misses an opportunity to showcase the contestants' offerings in close-up, high-resolution, slowly-rotating shots that give the audience a good look at every individual flake of a pastry. And even when the food itself doesn't turn out quite as intended, they preface each challenge with a stylized drawing of each contestant's intended offering, which is often nearly as mouth-watering as the real thing.
  • 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.
    • Contestants who finish their bakes early will sometimes pitch in and help those who are struggling to complete their own bakes within the time limit, like how Richard and Chetna stepped in to help Martha recover from a mishap during the Pastry Showstopper.
  • Gingerbread House:
    • 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 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: If a bake deals with a specific nationality Mel and Sue won't just imitate the accent, they'll speak in the language of the country of origin when making announcements. French is just one of the many languages they've spoken in the Bakeoff Tent.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Iain from Series 5 had one of these, eventually culminating in a moment where he angrily threw his Baked Alaska in the bin after discovering that Diana had inadvertently caused it to melt, in turn causing Iain be eliminated.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The hosts spend much of their time coming up with ways to pun on the theme of the episode.
  • Ironic Echo Cut:
    • During the Baked Alaska challenge in Series 5:
      Contestant: I'm okay with today's task. It's a sponge base and ice cream, so what can possibly go wrong?
      (cut to)
      Paul Hollywood: There's many things that can go wrong in a Baked Alaska.
    • During a vegetable cake challenge in one of the Comic Relief specials, a contestant remarks that in his opinion you'd have to be crazy to think a beetroot cake would be a good idea. Immediate cut to another contestant preparing a beetroot cake.
  • Lame Pun: If there's one to be made, Mel and Sue will make it. Contestants will either laugh or groan depending on how much pressure they're experiencing.
  • Multinational Shows: Multiple European versions, mostly with names of the format The (Great) [Country] Baking Competition or All of [Country] Bakes. Also The Great Australian Bake-Off, The American Baking Competition, and Bake Off Brasil.
  • Namesake Gag: Introducing a challenge involving frangipane tarts, Sue tells the contestants that the frangipane filling takes its name from 16th-century Italian nobleman Muzio Frangipanenote  — and that the pastry case takes its name from 16th-century Italian nobleman Giovanni Shortcrust.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: One of the contestants in Series 5 had to drop out between episodes due to illness. In the episode where this was announced, the judges considered waiving the usual end-of-episode elimination to keep the numbers right, but ended up deciding that one of the competitors had earned elimination. Instead, they waived the elimination in a later episode when Paul and Mary were unable to reach agreement about which of the two worst-performing competitors should be eliminated.
  • Not So Stoic: Paul will occasionally stand still at the end of a contestant's work bench and watch them carry out the challenge. In the series 6 finale, he tries to do this to Nadiya by asking her if she's happy. Nadiya responds that she is, and then asks Paul the same question back - to which he just bursts out giggling and walks off.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in Series 6. One of the competitors is a man named Paul, who has white hair and a Van Dyke like a certain judge named Paul. Immediately lampshaded by Sue.
    Paul: Paul.
    Paul: Paul.
  • 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.
  • Real Men Cook: Series 6 contestant Paul Jagger, a former Coldstream Guardsman and currently a prison governor, enjoys baking, flower arranging, and can make delicate animal carvings out of fruit.
  • Running Gag:
    • 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.
  • Science Hero: Paul has extensive knowledge of the science of baking and is always explaining the various chemical processes that occur during a bake. Mary is also incredibly knowledgeable but she doesn't go into quite as much detail as Paul, preferring to use more general, easy to understand, expressions.
  • 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 (with Mel actually snapping at her), 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.
  • Spin-Off: The fifth series has introduced an accompanying show called "The Great British Bake-Off: An Extra Slice", in which the presenter and a couple of guests console the eliminated contestant and discuss the week's show.
  • Stunned Silence: In Series 6, Mat's royal icing turned out wrong. When Nadiya asks what went wrong, he sheepishly replies that he baked it too long. Nadiya stares at him in shock after realizing what he did.
  • Technician vs. 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.