2016 has been weird. We probably should have known something fishy was afoot when Bowie and Prince both checked out within a couple of months of each other. They knew what was coming; they didn’t fancy it. See you later, earthlings – good luck, stay safe, bon voyage. One big fat Brexit and a side order of The Donald later, we find ourselves in October, most confused. Just when you think you have 2016 sussed, it throws you another expectation-boggling curveball. Take this morning, for instance, when it was announced that Ice Cube will play Fagin in a Disney remake of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. The angry one from NWA and the Jump Street Franchise? Yeah, that Ice Cube. Oh. Right. Should have seen that one coming. Silly me.
Well, at least we have Bake Off, right? Thank heavens for Bake Off, with its warmth, loveliness and familiar structure. When everything else around us is subverting reality, we can count on Mary Berry and co. to provide us with a much-needed dose of predictable tranquillity, can’t we.
Bake Off is a national institution. The pleasure is in its inevitability. People will bake cakes on national television, and other people will judge them. During both the baking and the judging, two people will fill the gaps with regular doses of good old Great British humour. After each weekly helping of baking, judging and aforementioned humour, one of the bakers will be crowned as the worst baker and sent back to the reality the rest of us occupy. Because Bake Off isn’t reality, you see. The now-iconic marquee isn’t situated in one of the greener parts of the Home Counties; that’s what they want you to believe. No. Bake Off is separate to what we know as time and space. It exists four-dimensionally, outside of our conception of the everyday. A bit like heaven, a bit like Hogwarts, and a bit like being on acid. That’s a subject for another day, though. We’re not talking about Bake Off’s role in the matrix. We’re talking about Bake Off’s cathartic stability. Regardless of what the rest of the world might be doing, Bake Off will forever remain lovely – unruffled, undisturbed and unchanged.
Or will it?????????????
No, actually. No it fucking well won’t. Nope, no, nada. Not this time. Bake Off’s gone and done it as well, for fuck’s sake. Just when you thought there was one thing you could rely on in a climate of imploding uncertainty, Bake Off goes and punches you straight in the feelings, too.
“The BBC has lost the rights to broadcast the Great British Bake Off”
“From next year, the Great British Bake Off will be on Channel Four”
“Mel and Sue will not be presenting next year’s Great British Bake Off”
“Mary Berry’s off too”
“You’re keeping Paul Hollywood, though.”
And just like that, the faintest flicker of hope you’d managed to preserve was blown out, whimpering. Bake Off, as you know it, is no more.
This article was supposed to be a preview for tonight’s final. But what’s the point? Tonight’s final is like the penultimate dinner date between you and your long-term partner, at the bitter end of a dying relationship. Both of you know what’s coming. Both of you agree that it’s pointless you being there. Both of you low-key hate each other. Regardless, you’ve assumed a state of pseudo-ignorance, choosing to temporarily disregard that in a month’s time, it’ll all be dead. This evening, we’ll sit down with a cup of tea and watch Andrew, Jane and Candice battle it out, but it’s all just part of the long goodbye.
Had soon-to-be Channel Four’s Bake Off kept the BBC line-up, we might have been able to avoid all of this. Yeah, it would have been a little odd, but things change all the time. Not all stepmothers have to be nasty and evil. As a new parent, Channel Four might have been alright. Not on 2016’s watch. Instead, Mel, Sue and beautiful, delicate Mary made the honourable decision to stay loyal to their channel. They wouldn’t be joining the new show. Guess who would be, though? Yep – that’s right: ol’ blue eyes himself, Paul Hollywood. To recycle the analogy about a doomed relationship, that’s like breaking up with a long-term partner and being told ‘I’m taking the house, cars, dog, cat and everything else that we as a unit held dear together, but you can keep this old Phil Collins album that came free with the hi-fi.” If Mary Berry is Times New Roman, then Paul Hollywood is Comic Sans. If he wasn’t a famous baking television show judge, he’d been an area manager for BMW. Mary Berry embodied everything that was wonderful about Bake Off. Her surname’s Berry, for fuck’s sake. She’s sweet. You could place her on the top of a cheese cake, or pick her on a warm summer’s day. Could you do that with a Hollywood? Could you fuck. Of course he’s making the jump to Channel Four.
You know what, this might even have had to happen if Selasi was still in it. A Selasi final would have been a nicer final. With 2016 and all of its bewildering malevolence, he was never going to win, but we had a good run with him anyway. Selasi was funny. Selasi was brave. Selasi was sexy. So incredibly and unwaveringly sexy. Selasi only has to look at a woman to make her pregnant. Selasi only has to look at a man to make him pregnant. Selasi is a one man fertiliser. He is single-handedly destroying the earth through over-population. You can’t hate him, though – because he’s just so bloody nice. If you punched him in the face, he’d apologise. Then, he’d make you fall in love with him. You’d feel awful, falling in love with Selasi having just clocked him one in the jaw, but he’d tell you not to worry. “These things happen,” he’d say, while whipping up a fresh batch of cookies.
Val, too. Val, Val, Val. You were the hero we needed but didn’t deserve. I hope you’re happy, Val – wherever you are. I hope that you are comfortable. And warm. And that you have access to everything you need. You were too pure for us, Val – you and Selasi. It’s no wonder you’re friends. You’re better than us. You’re better than this. You two were meant for a nicer time.
So good luck, Andrew, Jane and Candice. I’m sure you’re all perfectly fine. But know that your victory will be a hollow, empty one. 2016 has been a very strange kind of year, and this has been a very 2016 Bake Off. Maybe, one day, we’ll look back on it all and laugh, but at the moment it’s all just too raw. We were counting on you, Bake Off. We were really, really counting on you.
Words by Niall Flynn