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The Great British Baking Show: Holidays

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Why it’s worth your time:

For the past few years, fans of The Great British Baking Show (known as The Great British Bake-Off in the UK) have come to expect special holiday-themed episodes of the show, featuring contestants from previous seasons competing for the title of Holiday Star Baker. Netflix has added not one but two new episodes (at least, new to US viewers) this year, featuring Christmas and New Year Eve editions of the popular baking competition. As these specials were filmed in late 2019, they predate the latest quarantine-bubble season, now available in its entirety on Netflix. It’s nice to return to a time of blissful innocence, back when we had no idea what 2020 had in store.

Both editions stick to the show’s usual format, naming a winner at the end based on three baking challenges. Except in this case, the winner gets to go home with the trophy (in the form of a decorative cake plate, as usual) after only one episode. The Christmas special brings back four fan favorites to the tent — Briony, Yan, Terry, and Tom — and tasks them with creating festive cake pops, sausage roll wreaths, and a gingerbread building for their showstopper. As usual, the bakes are hectic but the bakers are full of humor and good cheer. Hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig move things along smoothly, while the judges bring their usual tough but fair assessments to the table. The showstopper round in particular has some wonderful surprises.

In the second of the two specials, the crew are joined by the hilarious cast of the comedy series Derry Girls (also conveniently available on Netflix). None of them are particularly experienced bakers, but they give it their all in three challenges that test their creativity and determination as much as their culinary skills. Even if you haven’t seen Derry Girls you’ll fall for this lively bunch as they take cheeky jabs at each other, the hosts, the judges, and even themselves. As with the regular series, it’s the disasters the are the most memorable (and relatable for amateurs watching at home). Everyone is clearly having a blast, despite the pressure. There may only be one winner, but there are no losers here.

The takeaway:

This year more than any other, it’s important to hold on to those traditions we can still carry on in the safety of our own homes, and baking is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit. Whether you’re looking for decorating or recipe ideas, or just want to bask in the joy of the creative process, these specials absolutely hit the spot.

Watch it with:

There’s no age limit to the appeal of baking, especially around the holidays, so this is a true multigenerational watch. Whip up a batch of treats at home, and put this on while they’re in the oven. You’ll be glad to have something sweet to dig into afterwards.

Worth noting:

You may be wondering about that TV-MA rating for a show that seems comparatively tame. It’s due to recent seasons of the main series switching channels in the UK, allowing more profanity and sexual innuendos to make it into final cut. It’s still pretty tame, though.

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