We all have our bug-bears about reality TV. For some it is the fact that everyone on it is looking for a passport to fame, regardless of talent or likeability. For others it is the manipulation of those involved, the purveyance of an attitude from the producers of “Fame costs and this is where you start paying!”, whilst the audience at home is forced to measure sob stories against each other: “Hmm, who to vote for?” we wonder as we chomp our takeaway, “the girl with no contact with her birth parents or the boy with the mentally ill mother?”. Of course for many it is the existence of these programmes full stop, but for me it is hearing one dreaded word: “journey”.
You are all aware of it no doubt. Whether we are watching a glamour model survive in a jungle, a struggling pop star learn to dance, or a teenager from a council estate, we are all forced to hear about the ‘journey’. “If it wasn’t for Anton/Gary/Chris (delete as appropriate) mentoring me I would have never have made this journey” they wail. “Oh shut up!” we bellow back at our screens, “Get back to doing the samba/doing the Bolero/singing Survivor an octave too low!”.
So allow me to take you to a show where that word is banished. Not only that, but where no-one is out for fame, or is being manipulated, and where even those with sob stories are actually heart-warming rather than gut-wrenching. The Great British Bake-Off is a joyful hour of TV for so many reasons. Take Tuesday nights semi-final. One of final four, Jo, revealed that having married and started a family young she had never had a career. This show had helped her realise the opportunity of starting one. See- no hunger for fame, or hearing the daily grind of being a mother; just the simple wish that she could perhaps start making a bit of money from her skills. Lovely.
Then there was fellow semi-finalist Janet. I love her attitude of ignoring professional chefs and just allowing herself to make things how she saw fit to. Ok, so she lost her place this week after producing poor croissants, but she embodies the attitude that 99% of us have when attempting to bake something- recipes are just guidelines, and the best dishes come from ignoring them. Or so we tell ourselves at least.

Best of all, the contestants actually like each other. No dagger eyes over bowls of cake mix, no snide remarks of how one persons recipe is not challenging enough, no sabotaging the ingredients by swapping currants for rabbit droppings, just friendly chit-chat in-between challenges over cups of tea.
There are so many other aspects I could wax lyrical on. The fact this is a genuine test of skill; that the presenters Mel and Sue are more interested in eating the results than ramping up the tension; that the judges, though picky, are *gulp* polite and pleasant. In a world where being rude and obnoxious is seen as being rewarded, it is a delight to find one corner of TV-land dedicated to rewarding genuine skill and does not confuse taking an interest in the participants with being forced to hear an endless tale of woe. So forget about pursuing that million pound record contract, and just bake yourself a nice cake instead!

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