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Help! Noel Fielding’s ‘Great British Baking Show’ Antics are Growing on Me

Call it Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe we’re all just changing a lot in 2020, but I am starting to find The Great British Baking Show host Noel Fielding‘s antics in the tent to be utterly charming. In the past, I have bemoaned the fact that he enjoys mugging for the camera so much that he puts himself in the bakers’ way, but in “Chocolate Week,” Fielding was the tent’s stealth MVP. After a disastrous Signature Challenge where all the bakers failed to make decent brownies, Fielding became everyone’s cheerleader. Between his self-deprecating comments, impromptu “babka ballads,” and knack for getting everyone to smile, Fielding has finally figured out how to harness his comic talents for good in The Great British Baking Show tent. (At least for now.)

The Great British Baking Show experienced a seismic shakeup four years ago when the show migrated from its original broadcasting home, the BBC, to Channel 4. Only one of the show’s original cast, Paul Hollywood, followed the program. That meant that producers had the lofty task of filling the void left by former judge Mary Berry and original hosting duo Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. While Prue Leith easily slid into Berry’s role, the show has struggled to replicate the sunny, easy chemistry of Mel & Sue, real life BFFs. Sandi Toksvig has already left the show to spend time on other project and newbie Matt Lucas is still finding his footing. That means that zany goth comic Noel Fielding has found himself taking on a new role in the tent: spiritual older brother.

Noel and Dave in The Great British Baking Show
Photo: Netflix

When paired with Toksvig, a wry Danish comic best-known for her work hosting the uber-nerdy panel show Q.I., Noel immediately became the tent’s jester. He was constantly undermining the judges, quipping through stressful situations, and sometimes, ugh, getting literally in folks’ way. Now that Matt Lucas has joined the team, though, Fielding has graduated from the prankster younger brother to irreverent — and protective — elder. While Fielding still loves mugging for attention, he is finally finding a way to make that habit useful. Not only does he save his biggest bits for the bakers’ “downtime,” but these bakers also feel comfortable teasing Noel back.

In the last two episodes, I have been struck by how Noel Fielding has been saving some of his biggest bits for when the bakers actually seem to have time for them. During “Bread Week,” the contestants were saddled with more “downtime” than usual as they had to let their dough prove and their breads bake. In the real world, bakers can do everything from read a book to take a nap during these steps in the process. In the tent, they are trapped in an emotional pressure cooker without a single thing to distract them. Enter: Noel Fielding.

Noel and Hermine in The Great British Baking Show
Photo: Netflix

By pivoting his time pestering the bakers to the moments when they actually have a minute, Noel is making the most of his talents. (I mean, how could you not be utterly charmed when he started ad-libbing the babka recipe into a serenade for Hermine?) These are moments where Noel can really shine and help the bakers by diffusing their stress.

It should also be noted that while in past seasons, the bakers would politely endure Noel’s nagging, this group teases him right back. Whether it was Peter riffing last week that maybe he should kill Paul Hollywood or Marc quipping this week that Noel was a vampire, the bakers seem to be “yes and”-ing Noel like never before. That makes me, the audience, less concerned that Noel’s really honestly bothering them, and it’s fun to watch. My gut tells me that, once more, this increase in cast chemistry is thanks to the fact that they’re all in isolation together. However it could also just be that this year’s group watched what Noel was doing last season and decided not to get flustered.

No matter the reasons, Noel Fielding seems to have matured (slightly) as a host of The Great British Baking Show. Sure he’s still the same goofy goth we all have known and loved since The Mighty Boosh, but he seems to be more plugged into the emotions of the bakers. He knows when they’re up for a razzing, when they need a pick-me-up, and when they’ll tolerate him sarcastically saying, “baking’s for losers.”

Now lets hope this lasts the rest of the season…

Watch The Great British Baking Show on Netflix

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