Canada’s public broadcaster is premiering a local franchise of hit British TV competition The Great British Bake Off, and it’s set to follow the original format very closely.
Named The Great Canadian Baking Show, it’ll have ten amateur bakers from around Canada (including one Montrealer) competing in themed baking competitions — the first two weeks will focus on cake and bread. Each week, the worst-performing baker is eliminated, until a winner is crowned.
Executive director of CBC’s unscripted content Jennifer Dettman tells Eater that the network is aiming to replicate not just the structure of the British original, but also its particular, lighthearted tone — that is, unlike many other reality competitions, it won’t hone in on drama between contestants.
“It’s about the bakers’ own betterment and their own craft...It is a feel-good show, it is a competition show, every week a baker gets eliminated. [Each contestant] is rooting for each baker to do their best which is really unlike other competition shows.”
“There isn’t any of that backfighting or ‘mine is better than yours’...you’ll see moments where one will say to the other, be careful with what’s in the oven.”
“They’re almost competing almost against themselves.”
Perhaps mercifully, the show won’t strain itself trying to make all-Canadian forms of baking into “a thing”. There will be one Canada-themed week, but no tourtiere-, maple pie-, or Nanaimo bar- themed weeks.
Dettman says that it’s not the challenges that make the show distinctly Canadian, but the contestants.
“I think that behind every cannoli and butter tart bake is a story...so much of the show really is about that family and community from where the bakers live and it’s connected to their history.”
“We have lots of stories of things like ‘my nonna taught me how to do this and she’s watching over me as I make this’.”
CBC tapped two judges and two hosts with strong Canadian connections. But while the British original has used hosts and judges who were well-established names in the food and media worlds, the Canadian picks are lower-profile: Canada-born, Australia-based Rochelle Adonis and two-time James Beard nominee for pastry Bruno Feldeisen are accomplished bakers. They seem well-qualified to judge, even if their personalities are something of an unknown, though Dettman is confident in the job they did.
“There’s lots of learning, not just for the bakers but for the audience, and you need judges that have that knowledge that they can transfer to the competitors.”
For hosts, actress Julia Chan (also known as Julia Taylor Ross, of Saving Hope) and Dan Levy (ex-MTV host and star of Schitt’s Creek) are on board; Dettman highlights Levy’s personality as a perfect fit (with the added bonus of him being a Bake Off “superfan”).
“[The hosts’] job is to be friends to the baker because it can be really stressful at points...Dan is so wonderful and conveys the spirit of the bakers with a funny line.”
The show was filmed near Toronto this summer — unlike the British one, it was filmed in one back-to-back block, not just on weekends. It’s also far from the first time Bake Off has been franchised — the US and Australia already have their own versions, as do numerous European countries.
The Great Canadian Baking Show premieres November 1 at 8 p.m. on CBC Television.