Variety’s Will Thorne has a new article profiling the Great British Baking Show’s latest season and past contestants. It starts with a topic I was particularly concerned about, how they managed to film in the middle of a pandemic. The end of this season addressed this somewhat, saying they’d all been in a bubble together in a hotel. It looked like much too big a bubble, but they surely benefitted from the fact that it was early in the pandemic. The bakers had to stay in the same hotel for seven weeks and didn’t have as much time to practice as usual.
As we discussed earlier in the week, some thought Laura unfairly earned a place in the finale at Hermine’s expense. It turns out Laura got a lot of hate online for that. Thorne highlighted that and interviewed past contestants who said they got abuse too. One baker, Rosie Brandreth-Poynter, got hate calls at work! That’s outrageous. Here are some of those excerpts from the piece. There’s more I’m not including about the cultural insensitivity of this season, particularly given Matt Lucas’s addition to the cast.
This season of “Bake Off” very nearly didn’t happen, says Love Productions creative director Richard McKerrow.
“We really felt that unless we could do it as ‘Bake Off’ has always been, with hugs, with the Paul Hollywood hand shake, with all the closeness, the format wouldn’t be doable with the pandemic in full overdrive,” McKerrow says.
Fortunately, Love Productions had cast all the bakers by February, so when the idea of creating a bio-bubble was floated in April, they could make sure everyone was on board before it burst.
Creating a safe space for production involved hiring out a hotel and a good chunk of its staff, and piling around 100 cast and crew inside for seven weeks of shooting.
McKerrow describes the task as “Herculean,” explaining that the bakers had to endure a nine-day quarantine period at home with two COVID tests, after which they were driven to the hotel in rental cars (which incidentally had to be deep-cleaned five days prior), followed by 48 hours of self-isolation and a third COVID test…
The controversy of Japanese week was then over-shadowed by what happened when Hermine (a fan-favorite whom many had tipped to win the season) was eliminated in the semi final.
After the result, one of the finalists Laura Adlington received a torrent of online abuse from viewers who thought she had “stolen” a place in the grand finale at Hermine’s expense. She responded to it, imploring viewers to “please take a moment to consider you words before you judge someone you’ve never met.”
Then, in an unprecedented move, “Bake Off” judge Paul Hollywood also addressed the abuse Laura received, labeling it “disgusting behaviour” on Instagram…
In her response to the mass trolling, Hermine asked that people “honor my time in GBBO by showing love and kindness,” rather than being “unkind in my name.”
Several former contestants who Variety spoke to said they were subject to severe trolling during and after their time on the show which ranged from negative comments about their appearance, to receiving death threat calls at work.
When she heard of the online abuse Laura was getting, Rosie Brandreth-Poynter, a full-time vet and contestant from last season, was “disappointed, but not surprised.”
“I remember looking at the lineup for this season the night it came out and thinking who’s going to be picked on this year, who’s going to be me, who’s going to have a horrible time of it? It’s terrible looking at their smiling faces waiting to start with no idea what’s coming, no idea that people are going to be horrible for the sake of it,” she says.
Rosie made it to the semi final stage of the competition, but she says it was after the quarter final when fan-favorite Henry Bird was eliminated and she went through, that the abuse began to mount.
“People phoned my work and said they needed to talk to me about their dog, the nurses put me on, and they started telling me that I should go and kill myself and I should be so ashamed and I was the worst thing to ever happen to TV. They said I ruined everything, I ruined their year, why don’t I just go and die. When you get that in the middle of a busy work day it’s not very nice,” she says.
The abuse contestants face is something that doesn’t surprise me but is still unsettling to hear. For as kind and collaborative the show seems, the Internet is still a cesspool and people are mean. I’ve heard that even Jeopardy contestants get grief. I feel bad for Laura. It’s not her fault that she got picked over Hermine. Also as many of you said and is written in this piece, the judges have to make that call based on the week’s bakes.
As for pandemic filming conditions, I think that all reality competition shows filmed at this time should have a disclaimer at the beginning describing their protocols. I watch a lot of reality competition shows and some new ones out now (Full Bloom, Christmas Sugar Rush) were obviously filmed after March and have nothing explaining how it was accomplished. It’s unsettling to see people hugging and carrying on as if nothing has changed. It’s not reality now.