Great British Bake Off: How they got around social distancing in the tent
The whole of this series was filmed during the coronavirus outbreak – so what do we know so far about this determined group of bakers?
The Great British Bake Off contestants 2020: (left to right) Hermine, Sura, Rowan, Marc, Laura, Linda, Mak, Dave, Loriea, Lottie, Mark and Peter. Photograph: Channel 4/Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions
This year’s series of The Great British Bake Off will be like no other. There’s a new host, in Sandi Toksvig replacement Matt Lucas, plus the whole thing has been filmed under the shadow of Covid. What that means is anybody’s guess – hopefully Paul Hollywood will have to be fed wads of cakes with two-metre tongs – but at least we know what this year’s lineup will look like.
The contestants had to self-isolate for two weeks before filming began in July, and the the entire group - bakers, judges, crew, support staff, 120 of them in all - lived together at the country house hotel where the series was filmed over a six-week period. Some bakers brought their partners and children with them; Prue Leith brought her dogs and Paul Hollywood brought his pizza oven.
Usually the Bake Off lineup is the easiest thing in the world to predict, because every year it contains exactly the same selection of archetypes as it always does. But this year is different. This year, the contestants aren’t just talented home bakers, they are also so hungry for fame that they were willing to participate in a television series about biscuits even though all their loved ones were cowering at home under the most terrifying global health crisis in a century.
So here are this year’s Bake Off contestants, ranked in reverse order of success. But beware: I’m fully anticipating upwards of two-thirds of these people to be absolute baking-obsessed terrors.
Meet the contestants
Peter is 20. He is so young that he claims to have first started baking because he enjoyed watching The Great British Bake Off as a child. As a child. He is essentially a fan turned participant – the Bake Off equivalent of Brian Belo – and will leave such a trail of bedlam behind him that he’ll be voted off as early as is humanly possible.
I don’t trust Dave. He’s an armoured guard, yet he dresses in jaunty T-shirts and professes an undying love of mirror glazes. Obviously people are allowed hobbies, but Dave’s don’t fit with the high-pressured and potentially violent nature of his job. What I’m saying is that I expect him to experience a psychic fracture in episode two and hold Prue Leith hostage with a nylon spatula.
Now, Mak seems perfectly nice, even if his contestant bio does make him sound as if he is perennially one microsecond away from abandoning his family. He claims that his children are his biggest critics, and he has recently taken up beekeeping, because he presumably prefers the constant threat of agonising pain to being with the people he loves. Mak will do badly here, for reasons I am about to explain.
Do you see? This year’s Bake Off has a Mak and a Mark. Again, Mark seems perfectly reasonable – although his habit of being a white man who only dresses in African print clothing because he sometimes goes to Africa will see him denounced on Twitter as the king of cultural appropriation – but you can’t have a Mak and a Mark on the same show. It’s too confusing. Chaos will reign. The whole thing is a mess. And to make matters worse …
That’s right. There’s a Mak and a Mark and a Marc on Bake Off this year. What the hell is Channel 4 thinking? Was the talent pool really so shallow that they have to doom a full quarter of the lineup to looking up in ruined hope every time anyone says “Mark”? Marc is a bronze resin sculptor and seems decent, but why not go the whole hog next year and just enter 12 identically named clones? This is confusion on a level I am not prepared to tolerate. How dare you.
I like Linda. She’s an older lady with sparkly eyes who visited her aunt’s dairy farm as a child. She has four-quadrant Bake Off appeal, but the simple fact that she chose to appear on a baking show during a pandemic almost definitely means that she is a dangerous threat to our society and should not be trusted.
On the surface, Sura looks like a kindly Londoner who bakes out of nothing but an enduring spirit of love. However, she spends most of her contestant bio wanging on about Prue Leith, saying: “She inspired a lot of my baking in my early 20s.” There is 100 per cent going to be a Single White Female scenario here, and Prue would do well to eject Sura from the show if she so much as threatens to wear a pair of jaunty spectacles.
In turn, Laura spends much of her contestant bio wanging on about Sura, calling her a “friend for life” because she helped her out of a potentially disastrous ganache situation early in the series. So, Laura will Single White Female Sura while Sura Single White Females Prue. This will lead to a Human Centipede of Single White Femaleing, the likes of which humanity has never seen before.
Guess what Loriea does for a living? She’s a radiographer. That’s right. She’s a key worker, who will be endlessly praised during the series for her public service even though she’s just baking scones on the telly. I don’t want to repeat myself, but do not trust this woman.
Lottie is this year’s conventionally attractive white girl. She will initially do well on Bake Off, before social media will start accusing her of having an affair with Paul Hollywood. And then she’ll come third, because this is the way of things.
Rowan is a well-dressed music teacher in his mid-50s who professes an interest in updating 18th-century recipes. As such, Bake Off would clearly love to market him as this year’s dotty old gent. But beware: Rowan also swims a mile every morning and claims his weakness is “over-ambition”. This is a bold claim to make, but I am convinced that Rowan is actually a Terminator.
Obviously Hermine will win Bake Off. She moved to Great Britain from Benin 20 years ago and has a child, and is so perfectly Nadiya-ish that I suspect the Bake Off producers may have conjured her from thin air during some sort of dark satanic ritual. Either way, the only way that Hermine could mess this up is by deliberately poisoning someone. And I refuse to rule that out.
The Great British Bake Off begins on September 22nd at 8pm on Channel 4. - Guardian