Kelsey Grammer once said that Fraiser — the show, not the character — was so good because the writers and cast never went for the easy laughs, the jokes that came to mind right away. That’s what made it the best sitcom of the 1990s and still eminently watchable1.
TGBBS goes for the easy jokes all the time but that’s OK because we watch it for the emotions it elicits in its competitors, judges, and us viewers, not for the triple-A-rated comedy. And here it does not go for the easy ones, the emotions that will arise any time competing humans are being judged: ridicule, shame, anger, rivalry, envy… You know, the ol' staples of American reality TV. There is lots of sadness and frustration when a baker overproofs their sourdough, sure, but there is also friendship, compassion, empathy, and a kind of gentleness even when a steely-eyed judge ribs your rhubarb pie’s soggy bottom.
I am sure this wasn’t easy, particularly in a season in which early on one baker makes another drop their finished goods on the floor right before judging (anger hidden), a good baker leaves after a week of horrible performances in what was supposed to be their specialty (ridicule averted), and an oversized bakerette who tends to spill everything everywhere whilst making visually mediocre — though no doubt tasty — goods serves up a cake-shaped splodge in one of the last showstoppers (no shaming of any kind and there were plenty of kinds to think of in those moments). It was a trying year and the season could not have been easy to make. Yet, I can happily report that the baking tent and the hyper-green lawn it sits on continue being cynicism-free zones, making better people of its participants and viewers alike.
The absolute best, beating Seinfeld in a photo-finish and Friends by a mile. This is not a matter of opinion but an indisputable fact. ↩︎