The Great British Bake Off: wobbly custard, glossy meringue and a generous serving of heartbreak

Quirky characters verses sheer talent.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Another Wednesday, another Bake Off. This week it was desserts, and that meant enough meringue to smother a bearded celebrity chef, and some wobbly custard that was not to be blow torched. It was also a week for mild heartbreak, as Sandy, the Northern lass who sweetened the nation with her top banter and suggestive smirks, was sent packing. As if this wasn't bad enough, oddball macaroon-master and all-round teacher's pet Ian won Star Baker AGAIN. Too bad for folks like myself who are FIRMLY #TeamTamal.

Let's be honest, as much as his skills are insane and he seems like a very nice chap, no one wants to see a man who looks a bit like your dad who thinks cycling in Lycra is cool win the accolade of Star Baker. Where are his innuendos? His panicking expressions? Close-up shots of him injecting lemon curd into a sponge as Sue explains he is an anaesthetist? Ian is not the most quirky or humorous character in the tent, but he is (judging from his record) the best baker.

In the same episode, Sandy was easily the worst. I would have loved to switch their positions this week, but alas, it could not be. Being truthful to the work produced rather than judging on character is part of what I call Bake Off's "alternative presentation", the one that leaves the drama to be dictated by the oven, not the contestants hitting each other or being slagged off in front of the judges. Just imagine for a second Mary Berry shouting, "We were all rooting for you, HOW DARE YOU!!??!!111" at Sandy as she presented her detached top layer cheesecake.

With 99% of TV competitions, there are always at least one or two characters who stand out for all the wrong reasons. Namely, the entertaining but annoying one (Katie Hopkins 4 lyf), and the sweet, funny and hopeless one who is out of their depth but everyone gets behind and somehow manages to bag a place in the quarter finals. I put Sandy in this latter category, but sadly her place in the quarter finals was not to be secured by either the voting public, the soft judge or the television production company.

In The X Factor, Ian would not even have got through the first round of auditions in front of the casting directors, pre-Cowell. And that is precisely why I love Bake Off and despise The X Factor. The Great British Bake Off is a reality TV series based on integrity that is rarely seen in that industry. So even when the judges' decisions grate, they must be applauded for speaking the truth, not what we viewers want to hear.

Helen Thomas is a freelance journalist and English student. She tweets at @helenthomascph

Free trial CSS