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The year will perhaps come when the return of The Great British Bake Off (Channel 4) is not a tonic, a comfort and a joy all the more beautiful in that it is discreet. It’s not that year. Series 12 shows no early signs of obsolescence.

It helps that Bake Off’s casting process, dedicated to showing the lover’s lovable and self-deprecating charm transcends all social boundaries except perhaps class, feels more than ever a celebration of diversity. .

This time around we have Jürgen, the German computer scientist, who brought nuts, bolts and a wrench to help him with the final task, and the Italian engineer Giuseppe, whose pronunciation of the expression Jack and the bean was sweeter than the cane. cannoli. We have Jairzeno, the gay Trinidadian, and Freya, the 19-year-old vegan from Scarborough. Amanda is a detective who loves wild swimming; Tom seems like the kind of man who would be at home in a model railroad store. Fortunately, his family manages one.

We also have ready-made larks in the form of GBBO’s top judge-competitor doppelganger since 2015, when prison governor Paul arrived wearing both Paul Hollywood’s first name and truncated manhood. This year’s scary double, retired nurse Maggie, doesn’t share her alter ego’s name Prue Leith, but she has the judge’s toothy smile, red-haired candor, and foil hair. This can only be to Maggie’s advantage.

Meanwhile, the presenters purr. Matt Lucas has quietly but confidently taken over as the primary comedic presence, and is likely to have crafted the opening musical sequence quite extraordinary. Hosts and judges donned skinny denim wigs for an Achy Breaky Heart rendition that leaned on Breaky sounding a bit like “bake” and “heart” rhyming “pie.” The old days of the BBC, when Mel and Sue were content with quirky spoken intros, suddenly seemed quaint. The show’s newfound confidence, in its fifth series, spread to Noel Fielding, who eventually ceased to resemble the personification of an anxious dream where you were mistakenly given a job under high pressure.

As for the baking itself, it started with a simple mini roll, which of course is not straightforward at all as an overcooked sponge or overheated topping means a messy disaster. Lizzie, a Liverpudlian eager to jokingly catch up on what she lacked in baking, inexplicably surrounded hers with family photographs, which turned on him when her tahini caramel escaped: “It’s dripping on every face!” Greek Cypriot father-of-three George, affected by the mild but palpable tension in the Bake Off tent, was unable to roll his buns and had to smother them in melted chocolate. Future winners tend not to.

Speaking of which, the first week isn’t too early to mentally sort the bakers into three levels. There are the potential champions, the solid performers who will likely arrive halfway through, and the game but inept who won’t survive long enough to see Bread Week. In the second round, the technical baking – where all the competitors work from the same recipe, in this case malt bread, leading to fine margins and unpredictable rankings – did, as usual, hardly aid. But the highlight of the show, a trompe-l’oeil “anti-gravity” cake, identified the big players via the elegant North London artisan creations Crystelle (a bouquet of flowers erected that was in fact a cake), Giuseppe (a hovering cloud which, in fact, was a cake) and Jürgen (an angled lamp which was really a cake, pointing to a book which turned out, on inspection, to be a cake).

There were many contenders for immediate elimination. Human resources professional Rochica was satisfied with a ball of apple cake hanging from a branch, which was not really an optical illusion. Tom’s simple stack of cakes ignored the brief altogether, while the Leicestershire Chigs sales manager baked a cake that wasn’t so much anti-gravity as a gravity advertisement: one key piece fell to the ground during the judgment. Jairzeno’s attempt at some sort of large Swiss roll turned into a botched wrestling match that was comfortably won by the sponge.

Someone had to go, but the potters at Bake Off are happy to continue.

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theguardian Gt