It’s that time of year — you know, the time to put on The holiday and The family stone on repeat. The length of time spent watching each Rankin/Bass holiday special is socially acceptable. The holiday season, when the only thing louder than Bruce Willis fighting bad guys is your family arguing about whether or not That hard is a Christmas movie. (It is.)
But there might be one department of festive entertainment that you’re totally missing: holiday reality TV. No, we’re not talking about a Christmas episode of The Kardashians or a trip to the North Pole Below deck (although both sound very entertaining). We talk about The Great British Baking Showwho has produced a spin-off episode of their traditional English baking competition each holiday season for the past several years.
This year, GBBS brought back a quartet of his most beloved bakers – including two of my favorites: sweet Rowan and Hermine – for The Big Festive Baking Show. There’s little at stake, though being back in the tent is certainly stressful for the bakers. Instead of a whole 10 episodes of baking madness, they compete in the usual three rounds before declaring a holly jolly winner.
Rowan is one of my favorites GBBS bakers of all time. For those who don’t remember, he was on Collection 8 two seasons ago. Rowan is a wise old music teacher and never understood the time limits of the series in his season. He presented grand baking ideas to the judges, but fell flat with his execution. He would like to bake a curly-haired French nobleman; instead, he would half-bake a burp with paper curled around the noggin instead of fondant. Delightful!
Unfortunately, he went home halfway through the game, although I would have preferred him to stick around and continue to fry his delicious little monstrosities for the entertainment value. I was thrilled to hear Paul Hollywood’s condescending tone: “Rowan, are you sure you have time for that big bucket?” combined with Rowan’s shredder, “Absolutely! Well, we’ll see…” Thank God we get to hear this crazy chatter again.
Except this time Rowan was ready to fight. In the special, he nails his first two bakes, on his way to the showstopper with big chances to win. However, he drops a little vanilla as he dons an outfit fit for Santa’s elves, a reminder that our old, disastrous friend is still out there somewhere. And yes, Paul visits his station to ask if he’s been practicing – he hasn’t. Yes, another gaudy Rowan spectacle is coming. (Spoiler alert: He finally nails it!)
Then there’s Hermine, who was unfairly eliminated prior to the final round in Collection 8 (this looks like a GBBS curse), and gets a chance to throw back into the baking tent. Hopefully, this means Jürgen and Janusz, our favorite teddy bear contestants who were eliminated too early, will return for future holiday specials.
Kim-Joy is back too, with one of the cutest showstoppers inside baking show history: Paul Hollywood as a polar bear with shortbread cookies, Prue as a penguin (with red glasses), Noel as a melting snowman and Matt as a panda. The baker’s detailed work, as fans may remember from Collection 6, is an impeccable feat to watch. The final gingerbread challenge works to its strengths, with a final product that could be a prop in Disney World’s Christmas decorations.
“I’m delicious!” Prue jokes as she takes a bite out of her penguin herself.
We won’t spoil the ending – we’re not Scrooge! – but it’s not a spoiler to say that all the contestants are neck-and-neck at the end. That’s how any good competition should be. although The Great British Baking Show has failed us this season, with controversies galore, The Big Festive Baking Show is what the holidays are all about: rekindling relationships with old friends and enjoying spiced cookies.
While ‘The Great British Baking Show’ was a disaster, the Christmas special made its first appearance on The Daily Beast.