Dough! Israeli bake off's Pesach flop

November 24, 2016 23:22

It was meant to be the Great British Bake Off, kosher-style. There was considerable excitement in March last year when it emerged that Israeli producers had bought the rights of the hit BBC show in order to launch a local version.

What aired last Saturday night on Israel's Channel 2, however, was more of a burnt scone than a succulent Victoria sponge.

The show's Israeli producers managed to strip the show of almost all its charm, and made some hapless decisions with timing.

It was bumbling scheduling to launch the world's biggest baking programme in the Jewish state just as homes across the country are purged of all their baking ingredients ahead of Passover. After all, the Bake Off is all about copycat gastronomy.

Nevertheless, missing Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, I was excited this week to watch the next best thing. Until about five minutes in.

This was less about baking and more about serving up reality TV clichés

The programme-makers decided to have contestants compete in pairs. To Brits it is obvious that the Bake Off is all about technical skills and culinary flair in the kitchen, but the producers were seemingly nervous that this was not enough to hold people's attention. They decided to create extra drama by using pairs and honing in on the interactions and banter which this generated.

Sadly, much of that chit-chat sounded entirely scripted.

Contestants appear to have been chosen more for their personality profiles than for their baking flair. As a result, the technical performances were often poor. As for presentation, let's just say that the cake that looked like a big green bogey was not the worst.

There were the stereotypical "girly girls" - creators of the bogey - who shrieked and danced in front of the oven. There was the drag queen and his friend. There was the settler mum with her mummy's boy son. There was tantrum woman who threw a wobbly at her father when she did not like the look of their cake, and the devout baker who would not start without invoking God's help by reciting the Shema (he and his partner performed worst and were voted off the show).

In Britain, you get to follow the recipes and see the creations come together. So far in the Israeli version, it has not been possible to closely inspect any of the recipes. They got through the whole cheesecake challenge (puzzlingly not left to just before Shavuot when the series will still be running) without even giving the most elementary details, such as what cheeses people favour for their cakes and why. So far it feels like a baking show that is failing to engage with the art of baking, and just serving up clichés of reality TV.

Hopefully, next week, when the second batch of contestants is introduced, producers will assume that people are getting the hang of what the show is meant to be about and things will improve. Israel has enough trouble on its hands without being known as the country that trivialised the Great British Bake Off.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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