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A STAR-STUDDED SU2C: HOW THE BAKE OFF BRAND HAS RISEN TO NEW HEIGHTS

Rachel Elphick

Most miserably, lockdown in Britain is back for 2021. However, as we are all herded back into our houses by a mix of new viral variants and government incompetence, there is once again Bake Off to brighten the gloom. This time, it takes the form of its Celebrity Stand Up to Cancer special, and upon the release of this year’s line-up, I had to spend several minutes picking my jaw up off the floor.

How on earth has the big white tent managed to ensnare the actual Professor X from the X-Men franchise, (otherwise known as James McAvoy), Little Mix’s Jade Thirwall, and double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes for the same SUTC series?

This is just a taste of the stratospheric star power that Bake Off has harnessed to entertain us this time around. The glittering lineup consists of sportspeople, singers, presenters, actors and comedians from both sides of the Channel (though I presume they are all currently living in the UK).

THE SEASONAL COLLECTION OF CONTESTANTS FROM THE REGULAR SHOWS WERE ALWAYS SO CAPTIVATING BECAUSE OF HOW ADORABLY ORDINARY THEY WERE

It took a few days of pensive musings before I worked out why this bothered me. When I think of Bake Off, I still think of the cuddly early days of the show when it was still at the BBC; when all the contestants were regular folk who didn’t have much on-camera experience and did things like dropping their showstoppers and accidentally using each other’s custards.

Bake Off has always been good because it has been relatable and arguably achievable, as in theory, anyone who has a kitchen can try their hand at baking. Also, the seasonal collection of contestants from the regular shows were always so captivating because of how adorably ordinary they were. The Venn diagram of the world of Bake Off and the world of, say, X-Factor winner and singing superstar Alexandra Burke, very much feels like two separate circles.

THE GLOBAL ARTS ARE STRUGGLING UNDER THE PANDEMIC

I can usually only name about two of the celebrities on previous Bake Off SU2C iterations, so this very much feels like the first time that glitz, glamour, and Bake Off have ever truly been mixed. Will the concoction split, or will it blend together deliciously? Who knows.

It is fair to say that the global arts are struggling under the pandemic. Movies are not being made as regularly, neither are documentaries or TV shows. Singers and comedians don’t have arenas or comedy clubs full of people to perform to.

To have a public career in the arts right now feels even more unstable than it usually is, so the fact that Channel 4 have managed to bag the diverse box of viewer-attracting firecrackers that they have may well have come down to how none of these celebrities had anything else on their 2020 schedules.

This series certainly has the potential to hit the commercial jackpot; a captive audience, stuck in lockdown once again and looking to their screens to uplift and entertain, and a cast of very famous faces to draw a variety of viewers into the gingham-cloaked world of Technical Challenges and soggy bottoms.

If all goes well, the ratings will skyrocket, and in a time where the relatability gap between celebrities and regular people is widening, a bunch of famous people get the opportunity to flaunt their lack of baking knowledge and appear a little more ordinary.

BAKE OFF IS EVOLVING, AS SO MANY POPULAR PROGRAMMES OFTEN DO, FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO A SUGAR-COATED BEHEMOTH OF TV COMPETITION SHOWS

That is not to say that this fantastic lineup is taking part in this charity programme at all to further their own public image. Celebrities are very much still people, and they will all, I hope, be proud of the fact that their predictably dubious efforts in the tent are likely to attract a lot of people into watching and supporting SU2C.

Bake Off is evolving, as so many popular programmes often do, from humble beginnings to a sugar-coated behemoth of TV competition shows, now with the ability to pull in huge star power for its specials and also catapult its regular winners into the celebrity sphere.

Seriously. The amount of TV appearances and sponsored posts Peter Sawkins has been involved in since winning last year is impressive, especially by lockdown standards.

And yet, the whole circus is still quaintly charming, still homely, and still very entertaining, and it would have been a missed opportunity if Channel 4 hadn’t capitalised on the brand in the way that they have.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to seeing Dizzee Rascal, Tan France and Rey from Star Wars try and bake a cake. It ought to be a slice of excellent escapism, which right now, we could all do with a little taste of.

Rachel Elphick


Featured image courtesy of  Kari Shea via Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

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