For those who are otherwise unfamiliar, The Great British Baking Show is a reality baking competition that’s been airing in the UK since 2010. The series, however, is so popular that PBS began airing it in America in 2014, and in more recent years, Netflix licensed the rights to the popular BBC series. The reason The Great British Baking Show is so huge both here and across the pond is because it’s so different from other reality competitions. It does not pit contestants against each other. It does not try to generate manufactured drama. It does not seek to embarrass, humiliate, or denigrate its contestants.
The Great British Baking Show is beloved because it is everything that other reality competitions are not. Each week, a lovely, diverse group of amateur bakers are brought together to bake. The contestants are sweet, kind people without an ounce of pretension. They bake, not as a career, but as a hobby. They bake to make others happy. They’ve entered the The Great British Baking Show not for money or fleeting reality-show fame, but for the same reasons one might enter a pie contest at the state fair: To have their work eaten and appreciated. The judges, who are fawning and lovely, assess their work with kindness and adoration.
It’s one of those shows that’s great to watch with family members over Thanksgiving weekend or to watch on a hungover Saturday morning. It’s a show viewers can just bliss out to. Not everyone loves it, obviously, but no one hates The Great British Baking Show.
No one, that is, except for John Oliver.
“I cannot watch The Great British Baking Show,” John Oliver told Conan O’Brien in this week’s Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast. “It makes me so tense. All Americans say it’s so relaxing. It’s so calm. But to me,” Oliver continued, “it’s a white-knuckle ride through British people’s anxieties.”
“You have to understand, they’re so repressed, they’re all on the edge of breaking down. It’s not about the cake It’s never about the cake. I cannot watch it. It is just too intense … it’s just incredibly distressing for me to watch. I have never made it through an entire episode.”
Interestingly, this is actually a long held opinion of John Oliver’s. Back in 2017, Oliver performed at a charity event in Madison Square Garden in NYC, and he expressed similar feelings about the baking competition (via Elite Daily):
“It’s too tense for me. It’s just watching English people dying inside,” he joked at the time.
“It’s just horrendous, the emotional roller coaster, because I know as a British person, that if something goes wrong with their cake, that it’s going to really hurt them and for reasons that have nothing to do with the cake.”
There you go, folks. The one and only person on the planet who literally hates The Great British Baking Show so much that he can’t make it through an entire episode is John Oliver, who also happens to be known as one of the nicer people in show business. I look forward to the Last Week Tonight episode in which he brings the baking competition to its knees.