LLike much of the world, I have watched a lot of television in the last two years. Two shows have done much of the heavy lifting to help me overcome the pandemic, and while worlds apart, Schitt’s Creek and The Great British Bake Off offer a fun and enjoyable viewing experience, so relaxing it’s like they’re reaching out from the TV and gently stroking my hair.
Having watched every season of both, twice, I was looking for new shows to fill in the very specific gaps each left. I didn’t expect to find a program that fills both gaps simultaneously, but here we are.
The Great Canadian Bake Off (called The Great Canadian Baking Show in North America due to a copyright issue) is pure joy. Or at least the second season is, which is, unfortunately, all that is currently legally available in Australia. Staying true to the original British recipe, see a group of amateur bakers competing in a giant tent in the middle of a field for the honorary title of Canada’s best home baker. He’s upbeat, healthy, full of puns, and best of all, he’s got Dan Levy.
Yes, the icing on the artisan bagel is Schitt’s Creek’s sweetest sweet tooth. The smash hit sitcom was a few seasons ago when its co-creator and star took to social media about his love for Bake Off. “I was watching the British show and I tweeted quite naively that if I ever made it to Canada I’d love to throw my hat in the ring,” Levy. told the Toronto Sun in 2017. “And then inevitably I got a call asking if I would really be interested and I said yes.”
Levy suggested semi-Canadian actress Julia Chan as a co-host, while French pastry chef Bruno Feldeisen and Canadian-Australian pastry chef Rochelle Adonis signed on as judges. All four featured the first two of the five seasons, and while their Canadian character is on a sliding scale, season two contestants are as Canadian as Ice Hockey and Joey Jeremiah.
Representing a representative sample of peoples and ethnic groups, bakers range in age from the late teens to the late 50s, and in temperament from charming to extremely charming. There’s Timothy Fu, a college student with the amused resignation of a middle-aged comedian; Mengling Chen’s permanent giggle, who approaches baking with the same chaotic energy that I approach everything; and Devon Stolz, a substitute headstone carver teacher with the coolest job title of all time.
One of the things I love most about this franchise is its relentless positivity. There is no manipulation of past events or traumas of mining bakers for the drama. Even when the judges are tough, it is with a gentle touch and a smile and the bakers are so supportive of each other that they often rush to each other’s aid in the middle of a tart pie. The success of this smooth and upbeat show is proof that you don’t need fights and sobs to make good competitive reality TV.
Apparently, you don’t need cash prizes or any prizes at all, either. People will do it for a commemorative trophy, the vague possibility of a cookbook, and the sheer love of baking.
By far the best of The Great Canadian Bake Off is Dan Levy. While the judges do a good job, they are not overly dynamic, and they lack what makes their British counterparts so visible: the arrogance of Paul Hollywood, the charm of Prue Leith, the Mary Berryness of Mary Berry. And while Chan is a genuine treat, Levy steals every episode, as does current British co-host Noel Fielding. Who knew hot comedians and competitive cooking shows were such a great combination?
Unsurprisingly, Levy comes across as a barely trimmed David Rose. In fact, his phrases, gestures, facial expressions, and body language look so much like his Schitt’s Creek alter ego, I feel like I’m zooming in on an old friend. And while his humor is as Rose as a DUI at breakfast, his brightly colored outfits and warm relationship with commoners would have David lie down on his single bed and cry until someone offered him a giant cookie.
Probably the most David Rose thing about Dan Levy is his appetite. “I can’t bake anything, but I can eat,” he told the Toronto Sun, and for once he wasn’t kidding. Levy can be seen eating, I guess conservatively, 75% of the shots, tasting everything from the dough to the cookies. “Oh well, I don’t like raisins,” he blurts out when a baker omits them from a recipe. “It’s not that it’s about me.”
However, the thing is, it’s about him. And I suspect that all the projects that he stars in the future will also be about him. It is transcendent. So while you wait with half the world to see what he does next, enjoy The Great Canadian Bake Off.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism