The current series of The Great British Bake Off is shaping up to be the most fiercely contested yet and presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins admit they have been astounded by the high standards of this year’s competitors.
“It’s sickening. They are so good this year,” says Sue. “They were knocking out the most sophisticated and incredible sponges in the first round.” Mel adds. “They produced in the first round almost what was done in the final of series one. The standard is really high, which is exciting.”
Sue, meanwhile, is impressed by the lack of ego and arrogance among this year’s intake of bakers.
“They’re not thinking, ‘Oh, I can get a book deal or this or that out of the show’,” she told the Daily Express. “They just want to be a better baker – which is what is so joyous about co-presenting the show. There is none of this, ‘I want to be a star’. They just want to bake and hear the judges say nice things about their creations.”
Mel and Sue, who have known and worked with each other for more than 25 years, admit they haven’t been able to resist trying the pies, cakes and puddings that are made on the show. “We’ve eaten everything. The mixture that is cooked, the mixture that isn’t, the toppings… you have to pull me away,” says Mel.
“Everything in the cupboards, the sandwiches… everything,” adds Sue. “My weight has been going up since the start of Bake Off. It’s a slow build. You can find presenters who are in better shape but I guess we are here because we are eaters.”
Do they diet before the show starts?
“No!” they exclaim in unison.
What is so refreshing about Mel and Sue is that they are exactly the same off-screen as on. Lots of cheesy puns, laughter and all-round hilarity. They even play pranks on judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in-between filming – they once hid his car keys.
“Paul is outgunned,” laughs Sue.
“Seriously, though, in some shows some people say nasty things to get an effect. With Paul, he is sharp. He knows his subject.” Mel adds: “It’s a bit like having a teasing, older brother around the place. He is always there to have a poke and a prod.”
Sue says Paul reminds her of Cato from the Pink Panther films, “You try and do a link and he will appear out of nowhere.”
The two also adore Mary. “She represents the really good side of Britain,” says Mel. Sue agrees: “She is the most humble, sweet, fun loving and charming person. She is this wise and considered veteran of the cultural landscape – and she is like your grandma and she is a little kid.
“That sounds pretentious, but she is both of those things at the same time.”
Much has been made about the show’s switch from BBC2 to BBC1 but Mel and Sue insist no one working on the programme has felt pressurised by the move. “Most people don’t even know what channel it’s on anyway,” says Sue. “Besides, I think mums are delighted their children are baking scones rather than crystal meth! We are doing our bit.”
Mel reveals: “I have had loads of teenage lads coming up to me saying they have watched the show. Teenage lads really do like Bake Off.”
Part of the reason Bake Off has proved to be such a massive hit is the fact that Mel and Sue obviously care about the contestants. They can often be seen consoling a defeated baker who has been on the receiving end of some tough criticism from the judges. And the pair have been particularly touched this season by the camaraderie among the series’ hopefuls.
“This year the contestants have really made friends,” says Sue. “There is rivalry but it’s not nasty. People want each other to do well.”
While Mel adds: “It’s a kind show. Its aim is not to make anyone look stupid or feel bad about themselves.”
The two women are incredibly close – to the point of finishing of each other’s sentences. They socialise regularly and feel lucky to work together. “It is like having a family member around you,” explains Mel. “A family member who you get on with and like.”
Sue adds: “Being around Mel makes me feel alive. It’s like a relationship but without any sex. You can’t quantify it.”
Would they like to collaborate on other projects?
“That would be superb,” replies Mel.
“If it were the right show, we would kill to work together again because it is the most fun in the world to be standing next to your mate firing off the most terrible puns,” says Sue.
“And we know they are terrible.”
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The Great British Bake Off, BBC1, Wednesday, August 20, 8.00pm.