Some of the big names of light entertainment were back onscreen this week, not least the 12th series of The Great British Bake-Off (Channel 4), which has… well, we know what to expect by now.
Which is probably why the series started with Fielding, Lucas, Hollywood and Leith dressed as Billy Ray Cyrus and miming along to their own baking-themed version of Achy Breaky Heart, which was unexpected and disconcertingly unforgettable.
All we wanted to see was the cake
Once we’d put the country behind us, all we wanted to see was the cake.
The new intake’s first challenge was a Swiss roll-style creation of their own devising.
It went well for Jurgen, whose Black Forest creation was a success – despite being serenaded by Matt Lucas’ Flintstones theme in German midway – and Italian Giuseppe, who noted there’s only one way to go after a glowing review.
At the other end of the scale, easy-going London dad George got a withering “it’s pudding, it’s not cake,” and wild-swimming Met police detective Amanda was told by Prue Leith, “that’s not a swirl, it’s a blob – I like the booze, though.”
Amid an endearing crowd, geekish model railway retailer Tom, retired midwife and Leith lookalike Maggie, and 19-year-old Freya (who cooked a vegan roll with aquafaba, i.e. chickpea juice; “it’s a bit of a faff, really”) also seemed nice.
One malt loaf and a tense, gravity-defying showstopper round later, we were right there for this new set of journeys.
Relentless Greg Davies
The relentless Greg Daviesification of British telly also continued apace this week, to levels not seen since David Mitchell was onscreen every single time we switched on (although that lasted a full decade, from roughly 2005).
This week, the reliably hangdog Davies continued in The Cleaner, his own scripted remake of German black comedy Der Tatortreiniger, which we took a look at the other week.
He also debuted as the host of Sky Max’s new version of the music quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, six years after it was canned by BBC Two.
And then there’s Taskmaster
On Channel 4, meanwhile, the sometime Inbetweeners and Man Down star continued his impressive acting and hosting balance with a return for the 12th series of Taskmaster, a show which made its own network switch from Dave to Channel 4 last year.
“I’m not brand new,” he told us. “Quite the contrary, I’m a living relic… resurrected time and time again.”
Strangely, there’s a similar feeling to the Taskmaster format, which has been going strong since 2015.
There’s also a relentless freshness to it as well, though, which is in large part down to the enthusiasm of the show’s creator and ‘assistant’ Alex Horne; himself a contender to take Davies’ ‘always on’ title in future.
Still, it’s strangely funny
There was as much amusement in watching, for example, ambling Alan Davies blithely figuring out the easiest route to bursting a balloon filled with water as there was in Desiree Burch bombarding it with darts and rubber ducks.
Or Victoria Coren Mitchell’s borderline tetchy response to doing anything but dishing out dry asides.
Unlike Bake-Off’s dedication to celebrating visible craft, Taskmaster needs some kind of award for its weirdly gripping devotion to wringing fun out of the silly, pointless and seemingly inconsequential.