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    A "Bake Off" Investigation Into Whether Paul Hollywood Is Giving Out Too Many Hollywood Handshakes

    This article involved me watching every single episode of Bake Off that has ever existed in under 24 hours. My head hurts.

    Journalists tend to get their stories initially from readers — tipoffs and leads pushing them to dig deeper.

    Here is the sort of request that I receive.


    So I did.

    The Hollywood Handshake, if you are not familiar, was a super-rare achievement in Bake Off. It was when you could have done no better, when Paul had absolutely no pointers to give. It was at one point as rare as a solar eclipse.

    There has been widespread speculation that Paul is now dishing out his Hollywood Handshakes far too frequently. It has become a popular talking point among viewers.

    Twitter: @LukeSmithF1

    I feel that I should make three points before I reveal my findings:

    1. My method included watching every episode. Not all 80 hours, but the Signature challenge judgment of each episode, as that is when the handshake is given. This changed in the most recent series. (Trust me, it's madness.)

    2. If you are thinking, Scott, investigating this is a massive waste of time, may I respond with this: And here we are — you clicked on the article.

    3. And if you are wondering whether I got paid for writing this article: I did.

    Now continue to scroll as I go through the handshakes from every single series of Bake Off.

    SERIES 1: ZERO Hollywood Handshakes.

    BBC / Love Productions

    The "Hollywood Handshake" had not yet been born. Every time that Paul dished out a compliment, I gazed up at the screen with a sense of anticipation, only to see him with his hands firmly in his pockets.

    Remember this was the era when the history section took up half the show and Mary Berry did not say soggy bottom until Episode 5. A different, cold, isolating time in our nation's history.

    SERIES 2: ZERO Hollywood Handshakes.

    BBC / Love Productions

    OK, I've started to worry that I have in fact dreamt up Hollywood Handshakes and they do not, in fact, exist. I am worried that instead of writing content, I have just been watching Bake Off for no real reason for nearly two hours.

    SERIES 3: One Hollywood Handshake.

    BBC / Love Productions

    Oh, thank goodness. The first ever Hollywood Handshake was given to Ryan for his impressive sweet dough Signature. Paul was impressed and reached out his hand spontaneously. When it happened, there was no applause. Nobody had truly appreciated the effect that his handshake has on people.

    Given to: Ryan (Sweet Dough Week)

    SERIES 4: One Hollywood Handshake

    BBC / Love Productions

    I was starting to get concerned that there was NOBODY with a Hollywood Handshake in Series 4, but Frances got one in the penultimate episode for her choux pastry tomato, carrots, and cheese scones. It was also the first time that we all heard the term "Hollywood Handshake."

    Given to: Frances (French Pastry)

    SERIES 5: Two Hollywood Handshakes

    BBC / Love Productions

    Straight out of the gate, we're receiving handshakes in Week Two and Week Three. I was expecting there to be eight or nine by the end of the series, but alas no, that appears to be it. I have so far watched more than 30 episodes of Bake Off. The first series looked like it was filmed in a carpark and someone had smeared the lens with butter. We have come a long way.

    Handshakes given to: Norman (Biscuit Week), Luis (Bread Week).

    SERIES 6: Three Hollywood Handshakes

    BBC / Love Productions

    May I just say that it is absolute madness, absolute MADNESS, that Paul (the baker on the right in the top picture) did not get a handshake from Paul (the judge, on the left) for his fantastical bread lion during Bread Week. But he did get a special commendation, and he got a handshake in that week's Signature.

    Handshakes given to: Paul (Bread Week), Tamal (Victorian), Nadiya (Chocolate).

    SERIES 7: Four Hollywood Handshakes

    BBC / Love Productions

    For the first time, we receive two handshakes within a single episode: Candice and Jane, but this is the final episode of the series. Selasi was also given a handshake so quick I had to rewind three times to catch it and I nearly debated whether it was a proper Hollywood Handshake because the camera barely caught it.

    Oh yes, I'm single by the way, in case you were wondering.

    Handshakes given to: Tom (Biscuit Week), Selasi (Batter Week), Candice and Jane (Final)

    SERIES 8: Seven Hollywood Handshakes

    Channel 4 / Love Productions

    Absolute scenes! Absolute s-c-e-n-e-s!!! In the first challenge in the first Channel 4 episode we have two Hollywood Handshakes. Then in Episode 5, we have three handshakes dished out in a single episode — this matches the total handshakes given out during the series with Tamal and Nadiya.

    Handshakes given to: Sophie and Steven (Cake Week), Liam (Caramel Week), Steven, Yan, and Liam (Pudding Week), Stacey (Forgotten Bakes)

    After the first Channel 4 series, things have got a little bit out of hand.

    Scott Bryan / BuzzFeed

    I have also not left my desk in six hours. I walk around the block and try to think about other things (not Paul and Mary/Prue chewing and giving opinions) for a while. Then, anxious that this article will never finish, I return.

    AND FINALLY, SERIES 9: Dan got one during the Cake Week Signature Challenge and then, in a dramatic scene, Rahul got a handshake during a SHOWSTOPPER(!)

    Channel 4 / Love Productions

    This has never happened. It also undermines every single other amazing bake in the entire history of the show. Does this mean that this is the best one ever?

    And then Ruby received one for her Showstopper five minutes later. Dan then received two more handshakes (over two separate weeks, obviously). And the current total after just five weeks? EIGHT HANDSHAKES.

    Channel 4 / Love Productions

    And remember, we are only halfway through Series 9. If trends continue, we will be at 16 handshakes by the end of this season, which is more than the first seven seasons combined.

    Handshakes given to: Dan, Rahul, and Ruby (Cake Week), Dan (Bread Week), Dan and Jon (Dessert Week), Rahul, Kim-Joy, and Mahon (Spice Week)

    IN CONCLUSION: Are we in the grip of Hollywood Handshake hyperinflation? Yes. Yes, we are.

    Scott Bryan / BuzzFeed

    Now of course, the rise in Hollywood Handshakes could be because the bakers have got considerably better with each season. (I am not the right person to make a judgment on this.)

    But it could also be because once Hollywood dishes out one, he just has to dish out another if somebody else's bake is of the same standard.

    And my findings have provoked quite the reaction:

    @scottygb According to data and algorithms, by Series 38 we'll be approaching 830 handshakes per series

    Most of all, I am happy that this investigation is over.

    Scott Bryan / BuzzFeed

    This is not posed, by the way. This is how I genuinely felt.

    Channel 4 and Love Productions and have been contacted for comment. I am going for a lie down.

    UPDATE: Paul Hollywood has responded on Twitter.

    @scottygb What you’re forgetting which is crucial is the general standard of baking/bakers has risen year on year.. this is reflected in any praise given🙄

    Hollywood is also due to appear on ITV's Jonathan Ross Show this Saturday and he was asked about the handshakes controversy. He said: “I’ve taken a bit of flack over that. The handshake came from when they looked very professional and they almost cross that line from being amateur to professional. You will see it happen [in a few weeks] the handshakes almost stop.

    "Because what I’ve done is I’ve realised they are all moving up in standard so I’ve got to move my barrier up so that’s exactly what I do, I raise the bar and then no one gets over the top of it.”