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The New "Bake Off" Is Basically The Same As The Old "Bake Off"

Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding, and Prue Leith are joining Bake Off. They, alongside Paul Hollywood, have spoken to journalists at various Q&As and screenings. Here's what they have to say.

1. The presenters and judges of Bake Off are adamant that the format of the show hasn't changed one bit, despite the switch from BBC One to Channel 4.

Channel 4 / Press Association Images

"Alright, there are three different people on the cameras rather then Mel, Sue, and Mary," said Paul Hollywood at a recent Q&A about Bake Off, "but it’s the same."

Noel Fielding, who will be joining as a host alongside Sandi Toksvig, agreed. "I think when people see the show, they will realise it is the same show, really. I think maybe visually at first it is quite scary." Referring to himself, he joked: "Mel has been replaced with a vampire."

Toksvig said that it wasn't worth messing around with the format and that the success of the show is all down to the bakers. "You don’t want to break it because it’s something precious and it’s precious to so many people.

"It is not about us. It’s absolutely about them and their stories and all we tried to do was to facilitate that."

Journalists were shown a preview of the first episode yesterday and, personally, I believe the presenters are right. Bake Off has not changed. The rounds are identical. The bakers are equally as compelling. The tent is exactly the same and the comedy has a similar feel.

The only differences are the new people – and the ad breaks.

2. There are ad breaks throughout the show, but the baking action itself is not actually interrupted.

Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4 Televi/Press Association Images

From watching the first episode, there appears to be an advert break after each challenge, in some cases before the judging for that challenge has taken place. With a 75-minute running time, it appears there will be 15 minutes of adverts. None of the timed baking action, however, will be interrupted.

Jay Hunt, the chief creative officer of Channel 4, told journalists that the makers had been sensitive about where the adverts appear, just like when the Paralympics moved from the BBC to Channel 4. She explained: "We are a commercial broadcaster and we do need to pay for shows like Bake Off , so we make no apology about there being ads in it. But we have been very careful about thinking where the ad breaks sit and how the format points work with us. I think it’s quite seamless."

Prue Leith added: "I want to comfort some people who might think ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to Channel 4 because I have to have the ads.’ You don’t have to watch it in real time, do you?" This caused quite a lot of awkward laughter from the Q&A audience.

3. The hosts believe viewers will get over the "Where are Mel, Sue, and Mary?" problem rather quickly.

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Fielding said: "Sandi obviously does QI now and I don't think anyone can really remember when Steven [Fry] did it – it just feels like a perfect transition. Same as when I did Buzzcocks, I replaced Bill Bailey, you know. People go 'oh, I love Bill Bailey' and after two weeks they are like 'oh, it's the same show.'

"If the show is good and the format is good and the elements are good, I think the show is robust enough to take new elements."

"Look at This Morning, you know," added Hollywood. "Different presenters every day practically and you know it's the same programme."

Without revealing any spoilers, the show is self-aware about the new presenters and the fact that Mary, Mel, and Sue have left. Fielding said: "We couldn’t not mention it, because it would be a huge elephant in the room."

Leith also joked that one day during filming she turned up wearing a "What would Mary do?" apron she got from a charity shop, just for fun (but not on camera).

4. Channel 4's Jay Hunt says that the biggest difference between BBC Bake Off and Channel 4 Bake Off is that the BBC's wouldn't have picked Noel Fielding to host it.

ITV / Jonathan Ross Show / Via

Fielding is aware that some people found him being announced as a host of Bake Off a bit strange. He said: "I think when it was announced that I was doing it I think some people thought ‘Wow, what the hell is he doing to do, wear a top hat and throw all the cakes on the floor?’, but I have a big respect for the show and I love it and I just wanted to slot in."

A month ago Hunt said there would be a "new" comic riff in the show. Today, she explained further: "Noel would be an unexpected booking for BBC One’s Bake Off and I think taking the chance on a new comedy duo like Sandi and Noel was a huge punt."

She said that in future episodes Fielding and Toksvig's take will provide "slightly surreal" humour that she said matches the Channel 4 tone: "I don’t think it would have felt like that on the BBC."

Then there was speculation that the "surreal humour" would result in Bake Off dropping its infamous innuendo – the phrase "soggy bottom" does not appear in the first episode. Hollywood said that's not the case, that the innuendo is never written in the first place, and that “you don’t get soggy bottoms on the first week because the first week is...cake. You don’t get soggy cake!”

And as for ratings? Channel 4 wouldn't be specific on what figure would count as a success. (Last year's Bake Off final on the BBC got 14 million viewers.) Hunt said: "We’re not going into it expecting anything other than a strong performance." Fielding then joked that they would be happy with between five people and 70 million viewers.

5. Noel Fielding also found out he had got Bake Off while working on a show calledTaskmaster (a show on Dave) with Mel Giedroyc, and couldn't tell her about the job.


He said: "I was doing Taskmaster when I found out I was doing this and I wasn’t allowed to tell her!"

During the auditions there were chemistry tests to work out how well the presenters would gel. Working alongside Toksvig, Fielding said that they clicked: "Sandi is one of the quickest comedians I’ve worked with."

Meanwhile, Leith auditioned alongside Hollywood on a pretend set featuring pretend bakers, but didn't know about it fully until she turned up. "My agent said 'They just want you to meet Paul, to see how the chemistry works', so I thought 'That would be quite fun, I would love to meet Paul Hollywood anyway.'

"When I got there the house was set up as a full-scale set. There were three cameramen and two bakers and makeup and wardrobe, so by the time I got on to the set I was very nervous."

Hollywood sensed that Leith was nervous, so gave her some encouragement during the audition. "Paul said halfway through, 'Just go for it, give it some welly.'"

6. When it comes to the judging, Leith says that she has always reached the same decision as Hollywood.

Channel 4 / Press Association Images

"When we actually add up the mental scores that we have – who's coming first, second, third, fourth, eleventh – we're never apart. We always agree."

Toksvig has said that the bakers never think that the judges opinions aren't valid either: "It's really balanced and fair. You never have a moment when you think the bakers are going to go away and go 'I don't think that was right, what you said about me.' They always go 'no, no, fair enough.'"

7. Asked whether he will watch the social media reaction to the first episode, Fielding responded: "Are you out of your mind?! I'd rather throw my phone in the ocean!"

@BritishBakeOff @sanditoksvig @noelfielding11

When the first photo of the team altogether was announced around Easter, it caused quite a strong social media reaction. Fielding said he won't follow the conversation on the first episode. "If you are in something or you have made something it's quite crazy to sit there and see what... because how does that help?

"You might as well work the hardest you can, do the best job you can."

Toksvig has a problem with how strong reactions can be: "The knee-jerk reaction often for people is to begin with criticism and not to begin with an embrace. And that's a sadness to me, that that is how at the moment communication functions."

In fact, before the screening yesterday, none of the presenters had actually seen a finished version of the show yet, but Fielding had a good explanation about why they didn't need to: "We were there. We were there with human eyes."

The Great British Bake Off starts on Channel 4 on 29 August.

Channel 4 / Press Association Images

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