I've changed my plea to guilty, guilty of detesting the latest series of Bake Off.
I’m sure that for a heterosexual male in his mid twenties searching for a lengthy - but loveless - relationship that might provide security to validate the instability of poor career choices - nothing shouts life partner more than being a fan of Bake Off.
Times are hard for white, privileged males, and thus being a fan of baking shows is almost a modern obligation, a humble signal that separates us from the apes - by which I mean our grandfathers.
It’s twee, it’s humble, Its life affirming. It’s harmless. At least it was all of those things anyway…
Much like that piece of hack pub trivia (you know the one where the Atom only decides upon its path when under observation?) Bake Off was brilliant when it was moving unobserved. When it crept into the TV schedules, built up a following, and slowly stole the molten hearts of a difficult, and divided nation. For me, this is Bake Off at its stiff peak. But, alas, what goes up must always come down, and thus an unprecedented buyout battle fell upon the tax payer. The jelly gist is that Channel Four paid 30 Million quid to LOVE productions in order to poach Bake Off from its current home on the beeb. The beeb couldn't afford its own programme, and thus cash beat loyalty in this war of the rose water (Bottom of pun barrel firmly struck)
In many respects the battle was a kind of contemporary David & Goliath type fable, but one in which David is too weak limbed to even pick up the rock and thus gets steadily crushed under Goliath’s stinking corporate elephant foot. As if this wasn't bad enough for David, he then proceeds to get slowly, and meticulously disembowelled by a savage venue of vultures - who in this metaphor are the Conservative Party.
Either way it happened and, much like that Atom, Bake Off is now firmly under our observation, and thus its path has been decided, though It looks to me like a road to ruin; A rocky road you might say. (Still winning)
Since then, everything has subtly changed in Bake Off Land; cracks have started to appear, even if everyone keeps saying it looks exactly the same just with Ad breaks and a ‘new’ lesbian. To my mind, even the pastel bunting and gingham table cloths carry a conditioned air of hubris, and greed.
The most profound and pathetic addition to the new series is the commodification of a man’s handshake - something I foolishly thought people with hands have been doing for decades.
The operator of said hand is, unfortunately, love rat star baker Paul Hollywood, a man who has somehow managed to manipulate an entire television programme so that it orbits the nebula of his own starchy ego.
Earlier this week, I read something that claimed he’d been racking up more screen time than new judge Pru Leith. Back in the day, of course, I would have claimed this was classic tabloid fodder. However, having witnessed this new world of high profile programme poaching, I reckon this must be a clause written into his contract - sitting just below the sub clause that states exactly the amount of hand shakes he can give out per episode before Channel Four have to buy him a Lighthouse.
You can almost imagine how the conversation between Hollywood and his erstwhile producer might have gone…
“Paul? You know that organic, kind thing you do when you give them handshakes because ,as a dinosaur man, you are unable to articulate your feelings through words?”
“Er….Yeah?” Replies Hollywood, circling coconut oil into his palm.
“Yes, well I was thinking we should capitalise on that.…If you do, we’ll rent you a yellow Lamborghini?…And give you the Isle Of Arran?”
At this point, one assumes he simply looked to the floor and burnt a hole through the carpet with his laser eyes; a side effect of day dreaming about quite literally rolling in his own dough.
And with that decision, we are now forced to watch Paul’s limp, hirsute stumps folding time and time again into the tacky mitts of his contestants.
In last week’s show one of them screamed to the camera with a manic ecstasy that should only come with childbirth, or a new Morrissey album. “He’s already given two handshakes, so I wasn’t expecting to get one myself!” As though these handshakes were somehow born from dead air, existing outside of time and space. As though the shakes themselves were liminal, and could possibly start to fade away like Marty Mcfly in that photograph he kept banging on about in Back To The Future.
I wouldn't be surprised if, come the end of the series, the bakers are being asked to dish up a handshake based gateau, or perhaps build a show stopper tower of interwoven pastry hands. If so, they’d need a hell of a lot of Puff pastry to capture the true likeness of their Hollywood lord, and provider.
Rest assured that come Christmas there will be handshake t-shirt’s lining Regent Street; novelty handshake mugs that continually shout ‘Handshake!’ when you sip, and that inexplicably shaped like….Well….Hands….Shaking!
It will be a whole universe of Hollywood Handshake wonder, right at your actual finger tips.
But the big question on my caramelised lips is does he take the handshakes home with him? Does he cart their delicate memory back to his luxury, sugar cube cotswolds cottage, unable to fully excavate the past from his clotted mind?
During filming does Paul have a hand masseuse just off camera, kneading his overworked flesh back to a prime state?
When reclining in his trailer does he dunk himself, Darth Vader-like, into a Bacta Tank? (Official name, as told to me earnestly by a geek friend)
To conclude, I’ll let you in on some industry gossip i’ve caught wind of: The glacé grape vine is suggesting that the series finale will challenge the contestants to cook creme brûlées whilst imprisoned in a giant, flaming wicker handshake, cluttered with sacrificial goats and sheep, hooves bound. Naturally, previous winner - and token Muslim (Her own words PC brigade) Nadiya will be caged somewhere in the centre - if only to please the Daily Mail crowd. Her one chance of freedom is solely reliant on whether the finalists creme crusts are under scorched and snap well in the centre.
All this because of 30 Million quid? My only hope for mankind is that, following my extensive use of the word handshake, you become as bored of them as I am…Handshake.