Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I Can't Help But Love 'The Great American Baking Show'

Nia Vardalos, Mary Berry and Johnny Luzzini chat with a contestant. (ABC)
It seems strange to me that the one thing I've gotten so excited for this season is watching new episodes of The Great American Baking Show on ABC which begins tonight at 9:00 p.m. This year, the show has been expanded from four episodes to eight and from six contestants to ten. However, this year, the series will be shown with two back-to-back episodes.

If you saw the show last year, this year is exactly the same with the same format and same hosts: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and her husband Ian Gomez (Cougar Town). Based on The Great British Bake Off  TV show, the judges for this show are Britain's "Royal Queen of Baking" Mary Berry and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, Johnny Luzzini. Each episode is centered on one type of holiday treat and divided into three rounds. The first round, the baking contestants create their signature version of the item, the second round will test their technical skills and the third round is the "show-stopper."

What makes this show so great is the everyone involved is very real. Ms. Berry is smart and a "tough cookie" but she is very kind with her comments and relates better to them than say someone like Gordon Ramsay. Luzzini is a little cocky, but I think he has learned a thing or two from Berry and seems to have toned down a bit. The contestants are not professional bakers. They are home cooks, so you can really feel for them when things start to go wrong. Usually, there is one over-confident baker, one baker who who seems to just make it through by the skin of their teeth and one or two people who you would really like to sit down and chat with.

The show is also pretty unpredictable too. In one challenge, a baker might fail only to be on the top for the next challenge.Then there is Gomez and Vardalos. They're real too. For the first two episodes, we don't get to see Gomez all too much as more focus is put on Vardalos who get emotionally attached to each of the contestants. In tonight's first episode, she gets all choked up when she has to announce which baker would be sent home. In the second episode, when one baker stands back and almost quits saying, "That's it. I'm out." She rushes to his side and says, "No, it's not. Here let me help you."

If you can take a break from your own holiday baking, the show is worth a visit.