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Hit Baking Show Returns To British TV With Changes


If you think that only sports are wildly popular. Think again.

SCOTT BRYAN: Essentially "Bake Off" is one of the biggest shows that has been on the air in Britain for years. Last year, I think it got 16 million viewers, which is the highest TV show in terms of viewers since the London Olympics.

CHANG: That's Scott Bryan. He is the TV editor for BuzzFeed U.K. And he's talking about "The Great British Bake Off," which returned to TV screens in the U.K. last night.


The show is also a big hit here in the states, where it airs on PBS and is called "The Great British Baking Show." Now, despite being a competition show, the contestants are remarkably noncompetitive, often, even helping each other out when the baking goes awry.

CHANG: That's right. But last fall, the competition to buy the program got really fierce. And the BBC, which had been the show's home for the past seven seasons, couldn't afford to keep it. A rival network, Channel 4, swooped in and outbid the BBC for the show. But the shows two hosts, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, and one of its judges, Mary Berry, quit the program saying they had loyalty to the BBC. The only original cast member to remain is judge Paul Hollywood.

BRYAN: There were a lot of jokes at the time in Britain saying that he's basically just going to be in a tent by himself...

CHANG: Oh, no (laughter).

BRYAN: ...Because everyone else had left them.

CHANG: So, I mean, could this backfire? Because Mary Berry and Mel and Sue - they have like a cult following among the fan base, right?

BRYAN: Well, I mean, this is quite the interesting thing. So the new people that they brought in are two more comedians - Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. And, you know, they replace Mel and Sue as the host. And then you got Prue Leif who is essentially replacing Mary Berry as one of the judges. And I think what they've done well with this new series is that they've not tried to make them be like the old set. They've pretty much allowed them to be themselves.

I mean, like Noel Fielding is known for some of the weirdest TV shows on British TV. He is a presenter of a show here called "The Mighty Boosh," which the only way as I can describe is basically if you just had quite a lot of alcohol and you made a show because it is so, so weird. And in the opening episode last night, he was eating a flower for some reason, but weirdly it works.

CHANG: So when you were watching this, did it feel like you were watching the same show?

BRYAN: I mean, I will always miss Mel, Sue and Mary. The thing is is that the show is still made by the same people, even though it's on a different channel. So the tents are the same. The challenges are exactly the same. When you got Britain's most popular programs so far, you don't mess with the formula that much that made it successful in the first place.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, that's good to hear. Scott Bryan is Buzzfeed U.K.'s TV editor. Thank you very much for joining us.

BRYAN: Thank you.

CHANG: And we should say that fans here in the U.S. will have a while until they get their first look at the revamped show. PBS still has older seasons it can air before figuring out if it really wants to air the new season, which premiered last night in the U.K.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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