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'The Great Holiday Baking Show' fan react: The unsurprising finale

Season 1| Episode 4 | “Final Week” | Aired Dec 21, 2015

Right when the finale of The Great Holiday Baking Show happens, Christmas occurs! If you figured there wasn’t any Community discussion about The Great Holiday Baking Show because of the holiday season, then you’d be right. I took a break, and I apologize for leaving you Baking Show fanatics high and dry for a few weeks (especially the commenters who were excited that The Community was covering the show).

But I’m back! The discussion of all things baking returns, and believe me, there is a lot to discuss.

Let’s start with this: Are we surprised Lauren won the entire shebang? I don’t think we are. Lauren was consistent all the way through, despite her kerfuffle with pastry. She was the most detail-oriented and maybe, the biggest perfectionist. There are only a few cases in which being a perfectionist helps, and the atmosphere of The Great Baking Show (British and American) is where an OCD-based person can thrive. Lauren is a textbook case of the OCD baker.

The most important thing Lauren had, in all seriousness, was a higher level of baking knowledge than her competitors. Maybe it’s sacrilege to say so, but I’d compare Lauren to one of the former winners of The Great British Baking Show: Nancy. Nancy’s wealth of knowledge propelled her toward the finish line each week. It also kept her cool under pressure, especially when things went wrong. I’d say that second to Lauren in skill was Tim, who killed it with his cream-puff reindeer last week (remember the bespoke antlers!), but failed miserably at all challenges during the final. Tim’s apple-and-cranberry pie was too runny, and the fondant application for his cake of stacked presents was horrible. At the very least, Tim came in second place with the technical, a recipe for a cranberry-compote-stuffed braided bread in the shape of a candy cane, an exclusive recipe for the tent devised by Johnny.

This brings me to Nicole. Hopefully it’s not uncouth to recognize a competitor, but the A.V. Club’s reviews of The Great Holiday Baking Show are quite stellar reads, and the reviews (and the commenters) validated something I’d been feeling for a while. I don’t know Nicole personally, and since she’s a real human on a reality show and not a made-up character on a TV show, I feel exceptionally bad for writing this, but she … grated on my nerves a bit. I’m so sorry. But you know, it might not even be Nicole’s fault as to why some fans were all right with her and some definitely weren’t.

Something the A.V. Club Baking Show recapper Myles McNutt addressed was how Nicole’s personality might not be right for some of the viewers well-versed in the subdued Britishness of the original show. McNutt gives the example of when Nicole tells a story during “Pastry Week” concerning her grandmother and bananas:

It’s basically what she would do to liven things up as she went through a recipe as part of a cooking show (it reminds me of Top Chef‘s Carla Hall, now on The Chew), and it’s something that is definitely less common in Bake-Off than it is on American cooking shows more broadly.

McNutt has no problem with Nicole chiming in about her grandma’s feelings about bananas, but he does bring up a valid point—that the American producers might clumsily be trying to make The Great Holiday Baking Show more American than it needs to be.

For instance, there did seem to be a big focus on people telling charming stories about their relatives and baking, and there was a bigger focus on the bigger personality in the room, which happened to be Nicole’s. It seems like the producing team felt that an inroad for American audiences would be to have Food Network–type asides and personalities. In fact, Nicole would be right at home on Food Network. But historically speaking, the Baking Show tent has not been a place that has featured that kind of dynamic. It’s more about the tense power struggle between time and perfection. People’s personalities still shine through as they fret about having the right amount of flour or baking time, but never has the momentum stopped for a family anecdote.

The closest The Great British Baking Show got to overtly showcasing one contestant would have been this past season with Nadiya. Nadiya had amazing facial expressions, and the cameras made sure to show every time she grimaced with fear and anxiety. However, even with that, the show didn’t favor Nadiya over the other contestants. And like the other contestants, Nadiya won fans from her bakes and determined demeanor, not from saying things like, “Haters gonna hate, but a baker’s gonna bake.”

The way the show was treated, including the lackluster performances of the hosts, Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, leads me to speculate whether the second season of The Great Holiday Baking Show will even come about. The drastic quality of this statement is because there’s a fear that the producers don’t really get what makes the show so fun to watch. Maybe it is because it’s a British show, and America has a penchant for loving British shows simply because of the accents. But as I’ve written before, what makes The Great Holiday Baking Show fun is the drama that occurs when baking is put under a time constraint. How a group of strangers react when they have to make a princess torte in an hour is what’s fun! It’s also something that translates universally; you don’t have to “Americanize” it in any way.

It would have helped doubly if the show actually lasted longer than four episodes. The British version has the advantage of time when it comes to getting to know the contestants. Four episodes just isn’t enough to build up any kind of relationship with anyone. Perhaps the four-week time slot would have been better used if they had a longer season, with enough episodes to show an episode every day, or even three days a week, like American Idol. With just four episodes, do we really care about anyone? Are we even that excited Lauren won? I won’t spoil who won the latest season of The Great British Baking Show, but I was jumping for joy when the winner was unveiled. Was I jumping for Lauren? Not so much. I was glad, but I wasn’t as thrilled as if my own relative won—which is how I felt about the British winner.

As an aside: We should discuss how apparently difficult it was for the show team to come up with holiday baking challenges. Things went from gingerbread houses and cream-puff structures to just stacking cake, albeit cake with tough-to-create designs inside. If things were getting so dire that Johnny had to develop a bake just for the episode, someone is not using his or her creativity. What happened to fruitcake, or Christmas pudding, or red velvet cake, or a cinnamon-roll Christmas-breakfast extravaganza, or the many types of European Christmas cookies, or pound cake, or sweet-and-savory bread puddings? I have a proposal as to how to get a better variety of bakes for an American version of The Great British Baking Show, which you’ll read about soon enough.

Basically, the finale of The Great Holiday Baking Show left me feeling more “ho-hum” than “ho, ho, ho.” Perhaps I’m just being a scrooge. Or perhaps you agree. Whichever way you fall, write about it below! Tell me if you think Lauren deserved to win—or if you think another contestant was robbed.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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