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The Best Baker Does Not Always Win the 'Great British Baking Show' and That's OK

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 4, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 4, 2023 |


Spoilers for Series 11

I was disappointed in who made the final three on the latest season of The Great British Baking Show, because there was so much personality this season, and too little of it made it into the finale. Absent were Amos, Rowan, Keith, Tasha, and especially Saku, who should be on the short-list to replace the next exiting cast member of the GBBS team, host or judge.

We were left, instead, with three guys: The inconsistent but affable Dan, who had no shot in hell; the conservative and predictably good Josh, the odds-on favorite by the end of the series and also the blandest finalist in the history of the series; and Matty, a genuinely amateur baker with some real ups and downs on the season, but who had improved as the season went on.

I don’t know much about baking — I’m just here for the personalities — but through the first two rounds, it appeared that Josh would run away with the competition. He and Matty both turned in solid Signature bakes, but Matty crapped out in the technical while Josh came in first. Dan came in second in the technical but began and ended the episode as a good-natured afterthought who knew he was outmatched. He had a great sense of humor, begrudgingly accepting that he would be an also-ran. Like everyone else, he expected Josh to win.

Everyone expected Josh to win. However, something unexpected happened during the Showstopper challenge. The edit suggested Matty had messed up a few things while Josh continued to be predictably near-perfect. It appeared to be over when Matty walked to the judge’s table with a badly leaning cake. His cake, however, was perfect, and the judges were all too willing to overlook the lean. Josh, meanwhile, may have been too sure of himself. Either that or the judges just really, really didn’t want to give the title to someone so devoid of personality. “Adequate” and “perhaps overbaked” was how Paul described his cake, while Prue suggested it was too “compressed.” They were looking for any excuse not to award him the title.

I wanted Tasha to win, but I also understood why she didn’t make the finale: She faltered under pressure. At the same time, I could not believe how much, in the end, I wanted Matty to pull it out. Such a nice kid! So earnest, so willing to learn, so in love with his fiancée! Gratitude should not be a factor in the choice of winner, but my God, Matty’s gratitude was delightfully charming. The guy bakes brownies for students in his class but gives the credit to his girlfriend because he’s embarrassed to admit he is an excellent baker.

Matty ultimately pulled it out because Paul and Prue clearly weighed the Showstopper far more heavily than the Signature and Technical (like, 90/7/3) and because the producers wanted a crowd-pleasing finale. They certainly got one. Did Josh deserve to win? Maybe. Do I care that he lost? I do not!

Prue said it all of Matty: “I’ve never met a more cheerful, smiling, uncomplaining, and willing baker,” and there’s something to be said for using one’s time on The Great British Baking Show not to show off one’s baking skills, but to pick up and incorporate new ones. Matty wasn’t the most consistent baker of the season, but he peaked at the right time. And genuinely, if everything else is equal, a winning personality makes for a fantastic tiebreaker.

It capped off what was ultimately a strong season highlighted by the presence of new co-host Alison Hammond, who was more than just a better alternative to Matt Lucas. She was the best thing to happen to the series since Mel and Sue left, an addition to the show who consistently made Noel better. She seemed, at times, to even bring out the best in Paul. It was not just a good season, but it was also a season never marked by an embarrassing, viral moment, save for the highlight of the year: The hilarious and disastrous steamed pudding technical, which briefly felt like something out of an episode of Nailed It.