Tasteless jokes and mean jibes - Bake Off's recipe is turning sour: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on last night's TV 

Sue Perkins had a cautionary tale to tell on The Great British Bake Off (BBC1) — how the villagers of Denby Dale in Yorkshire set out to make the world’s biggest pie by taking a giant recipe and adding more and more ingredients.

What they ended up with stank to high heaven and became such a risk to public health that it had to be buried in a field.

The Beeb is in danger of making the same catastrophic mistake with its best-loved cookery show, as Bake Off’s traditions and quirks are amplified to ludicrous proportions. What was a tasty formula is turning into a monstrous aberration.

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'Everything is becoming coarser,  more competitive and critical,' writes Christopher Stevens

'Everything is becoming coarser,  more competitive and critical,' writes Christopher Stevens

Everything is becoming coarser, more competitive and critical. Even the daft introductions with Perkins and fellow presenter Mel Giedroyc are getting overblown and brash — they welcomed pastry week with a tasteless joke about armpits. Who wants to hear that on a food show?

Paul Hollywood made his name with firm-but-fair criticisms. Now his comments have escalated to full-scale violence, battering contestants the way he pummels dough. He dismissed 19-year-old Flora’s fruit tarts curtly: ‘They look a bit of a mess.’

When Mary Berry tried to cheer the teenager up with some compliments, he contradicted brutally: ‘It is burnt and it is bitter.’ That wasn’t light-hearted — it had the subtlety of a steamroller.

Alvin got the full force, too: ‘Your base is far too thick, your plums aren’t cooked either.’ Paul’s idea of praise was to tell his namesake, the former Coldstream Guard Paul Jagger: ‘The flavours are coming through — it just looks hideous.’

And he was cackling when he set the technical challenge, where the bakers had to make Cypriot flaounes, horrible-looking cheese pasties no one had heard of. These oozing yellow squares were flavoured with a tree resin called mastic, which apparently smelled like industrial cleaner and tasted like sand.

Hollywood and Bake Off have forgotten what made this sweet little show popular. Viewers used to enjoy watching competent but unexceptional cooks rustle up delicious sponges and lovely loaves.

Now we’ve got the baking equivalent of extreme sports, where highly trained kitchen athletes produce ludicrous concoctions that ordinary viewers couldn’t possibly copy and wouldn’t want to either.

Suranne Jones, as a betrayed wife in Doctor Foster (BBC1), rocketed to extremes, too — which was a pity, because the central concept of this drama about jealousy and suspicion in a middle-class marriage was a promising one.

There is enough psychological tension in the set-up of  DR Foster to  last for weeks, writes Christopher Stevens

There is enough psychological tension in the set-up of  DR Foster to  last for weeks, writes Christopher Stevens

Jones played Gemma, an overworked GP and mother who starts to imagine all sorts of infidelities when her charmer of a husband (Bertie Carvel) arrives home from a conference with a single strand of blond hair on his scarf.

There’s enough psychological tension in that set-up to last for weeks. But Gemma escalated from a heightened state of alert to all-out craziness in a matter of minutes.

First, she drunkenly confided in a friend at a dinner party, then she went through her husband Simon’s phone, searching for incriminating texts.

By the next day, she was stalking him at work and rifling through his office, before bribing one of her patients with free drugs to turn private detective.


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If that level of loonydom seemed like a normal reaction to her, the big question was why Simon had ever come back from his weekend away. Any sane man would have changed his name and prepared to spend a lifetime in hiding.

Gemma seemed more than capable of sorting out any errant hubbie. When her drug-abusing patient confided that her boyfriend was knocking her around, the doc turned vigilante and, using a cigarette as a weapon, kicked the oik out onto the streets.

Whatever else she is, this is not a helpless woman scorned.

Doctor Foster was broadcast after the watershed, but there really should have been a warning for squeamish viewers: ‘This programme contains pictures of Bertie Carvel’s bottom, from the very beginning.’

We’d just been watching Bake Off, and no one wants to see that on a full stomach.