In Review

Channel 4 Bake Off: New recipe wins over critics

The new show features great chemistry, lashings of wit and plenty of soggy bottoms, say reviews

Fans feared the worst when Channel 4 snapped up the Great British Bake Off from its old home on the BBC, but early reviews suggest the new show has lost none of its magic.

Here's what you need to know:

When is it on?

The new series returns on 29 August at 8pm. It has moved from its traditional Wednesday night slot and now goes head-to-head with rival BBC Two show The Big Family Cooking Showdown. 

Who are the judges?

Paul Hollywood is the only judge from the original BBC series to stay with the Channel 4 show. Mary Berry (who's been rewarded with her own cooking programme Britain's Best Cook) has been replaced by the food writer and restaurateur Prue Leith, star of the Great British Menu. Meanwhile, popular hosting duo Mel and Sue have been replaced by Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding.

Who are the 12 contestants?

They are: Tom, 29, an architect from Edinburgh, Kate, 29, a safety inspector from Merseyside, Julia, 32, from West Sussex via Siberia, James, 46, a baker from Essex, Stacey, 42, a former schoolteacher, Yan, an NHS molecular biologist, Steven, 34, who works in marketing, Chris, a software developer, Sophie, a former army officer and psychology graduate, and Peter, an IT programmer. Flo is the oldest-ever contestant at 71. The youngest is Liam, 19, from North London. 

What else is new?

Unlike the BBC version, Channel 4's Bake Off includes commercial breaks. There's one immediately after the first challenge, before it's judged. Then another after the judging of the technical work. And another between the showstopper and the judging 

The show is 75 minutes long, so viewers still get a full hour-long programme once the ads are deducted.

The Times says that the ads are crucial to help Channel 4 pay for the £75m cost of poaching the series from the BBC. But The Times reports that Prue Leith didn't seem to "get the message" and told viewers they could skip the ads. Speaking at the launch, Leith, said: "You don't have to watch it in real time, do you?"

What do the critics think?

The new series has received almost unanimous praise from critics who've seen the first episode.

Mark Lawson in The Guardian called the new Bake Off  "exceedingly good". On the evidence of the first episode, says the critic, Channel 4 and Love Productions appear to be "having their cake and eating it", with a show that is "both exactly the same but also just subtly different enough". 

Sarah Rainey in the Daily Mail agrees, saying that the people, with the exception of "steely-eyed Paul Hollywood", are different but "if you squint a little, they could be the same old familiar faces", making the "same innuendo-laden jokes about 'soggy bottoms' and 'firm buns'". All this, she says, makes the show "impossible to hate".  

"All the ingredients are still there", says Michael Hogan in the Daily Telegraph. Hogan praises the chemistry between Fielding and Toksvig but says "Fielding stole the show with his impish wit and sheer cheek".

Frances Taylor in the Radio Times says "we'll always mourn the BBC era of the baking behemoth" but she too has to admit that Channel 4 hasn't ruined the show. If anything, Taylor says, what they did is "stick a sponge Ladyfinger up to the critics".

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