Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Great American Holiday Bake Show

Can something very very English translate to American? Sort of, as we've seen in a variety of TV shows that originated across the pond. There's another reincarnation, this time an American version of The Great British Baking Show. It highlights some of this country's best amateur bakers with an Yankee twist.

There has been some criticism regarding the show which airs on ABC Monday nights at ten PM. The hosts husband and wife Ian Gomez (he of Cougartown) and Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding " fame  chat and banter with the judges, Mary Berry, imported from the British show and Johnny Iuzzini ,a renowned pastry chef and former head judge on Top Chef : Just Desserts. Gomez and Vardalos don;t have the plummy, highly witty panache that the British hosts,Sue Perkins and Mel Gieidroyc. These ladies would fit right in with Jeeves and Wooster with their puns and sarky asides, along with their Pythonesque silliness. Sadly the Gomezes are more like your neighbors , offering help along as with lame jokes. Even "Ready, set, BAKE!!!", the show's "Tally Ho"  comes off as a weak mew  where their Brit counterparts shout it exuberantly. The format is the same., three bakes an episode, starting off with a signature, followed by a technical, then the showstopper.. Mary Berry is the same on this four week competition, as she is on the British ,a  kind of sweet but crackly Home Ec teacher. What is missing is the beefy sexiness of Paul Hollywood along with his sharp tongue. He is the perfect foil for Ms. Berry, tart to her treacle. Johnny Iuzzini is good as a judge, offering suggestions, but he's kind of like the sycophant assistant teacher, trying to cozen up to Ms. Berry for a promotion,.There's no smoldering fire there  to bake anyone's cake. Mr. Hollywood was a judge on a similar American spinoff, The American Baking Competition with Jeff Foxworthy back in the summer of 2013. That interpretation was just a little more livelier.

What about the bakers themselves?Are they as personable as their British counterparts? Yes,.as with the British mother ship, the bakers come from all over the country , offering a wider range of regional sweets and accents than the original show. They're not as catty or as backstabbing as other American reality show contestants. They're more like students attending an elite baking class ,. This makes watching the show addictive and refreshing . The bakers are all so nice, you find yourself rooting for all of them. The Yanks  face up to the challenges with the same , grace courage and determination as their English counterparts. Gomez and Vardalis joke with them, although it's not the same as Sue and Mel. The couple also tell the audience about each contestant's signature and show stopper bakes,with the same story book graphics, that explain designs and ingredients to the viewers. The challenges are interesting with the bakers coming up with gingerbread pagodas and Eiffel Towers (well this is the holdiay competition after all). There is a top baker chosen by Mary and Johnny and sadly one baker has to go home. The setting is done in an airy tent in the middle of a lush field where contestants are also interviewed.

Will Americans cozy up to The Great American Holiday Baking Show? ABC is probably hoping so, however diehard fans will still watch the original British one. It's a semi sweet treat that's fun for foodies to watch.

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