What makes a television show? I found myself asking that question when the news broke that Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, hosts of the fantabulous Great British Bake Off, would be leaving the show in the upcoming season due to the move of the show from the BBC to Channel 4. The Beeb was apparently not forking over the funds to keep the show as “great” as it is, so it is going to be making the shift next year to an advertisement-full station. Because of that, Mel and Sue, the cornerstone of goodwill and punny hilarity of Bake Off, will be making their farewells.
So why is this a big deal? Hosts leave shows all the time and the audience will eventually adapt. However, can you imagine Jeopardy without Alex Trebeck or Wheel of Fortune without Pat and Vanna? That’s like imagining Bake Off without Mel and Sue: impossible. No, they’re not the judges, and they’re definitely not the contestants, but the show just wouldn’t work without them. They raise morale, they take us on historical baking journeys, and they provide a light-heartedness that many (or probably most) cooking competitions severely lack. According to Sue, that is completely intentional. Apparently, Bake Off was more similar to those far more intense cooking shows, with drama and tears galore. Mel and Sue didn’t approve of this kind of audience and contestant manipulation and threatened to leave if things didn’t change. If a contestant does break down in tears (for any reason), Mel and Sue will often cover the contestant with their jacket and shout expletives and brand names, thereby ensuring completely unusable footage.
Mel and Sue are the heart of Bake Off. Without them, I fear for what the show could turn into. Bake Off is probably one of the most wholesome competition shows on TV. Without Mel and Sue bringing their own brand of comedy and their protectiveness over the contestants, how will the show cope?
UPDATE: Just as I was finishing writing this up, I learned that Mary Berry, cookery book specialist and judge of Bake Off, will also be leaving the show. I’m truly not sure what the point of watching it will be anymore.