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'The Big Family Cooking Showdown' Reviews: 'Great British Bake Off' Comparisons Are Aplenty, But Critics Are Divided Over The Show

Can Nadiya and Zoe Ball's new show fill the tent-shaped hole in our lives?

16/08/2017 15:16 | Updated 16 August 2017

When the ‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ was first announced earlier this year, it was inevitable that it would be immediately compared with the ‘Great British Bake Off’.

A light-hearted summer cookery show, on the BBC, with none other than Nadiya Hussain on its team, it’s no surprise that the press quickly billed it as the Beeb’s “new ‘Bake Off’”, following the acquisition of the show by Channel 4.

The reviews for the first episode are now out, and while critics are pretty much unanimous in their comparisons to ‘Bake Off’, one area the reviews can’t seem to agree is whether or not this is a good thing.

Here’s just a selection of what the critics said after episode one aired…

BBC
The 'Big Family Cooking Showdown' team

“Since Love Productions sold ′The Great British Bake Off’ to Channel 4 last year, the BBC has been preparing its response. ′The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ is part of the answer and like its juggernaut of a predecessor.

“Going on this opener, and I know it’s very early days, I’m not convinced it will have the special chemistry that came with Mary, Paul and Mel and Sue, but that took a while before the public noticed and it started clocking up more than 10 million viewers an episode... so for now take this as it is; a very watchable cooking show that if nothing else, will inspire you to get the family in the kitchen.”

“The biggest, most insurmountable problem ‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ faces… is that family cooking just isn’t very interesting. At least, by being smart enough to focus on a specialism like baking, ‘Bake Off’ provided a form of escapism. But you do cook dinners for your family day in and day out, so you know it isn’t exactly brain surgery.

“‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ is a noble effort, and it might still come together in time. But for now it’s very much looking like the Chris Evans Top Gear version of ‘Bake Off’. Or at least it would, if Channel 4’s ‘Bake Off’ didn’t also look like the Chris Evans’ ‘Top Gear’ version of ‘Bake Off’. In short, we’re all screwed.”

“By the end of ‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ my heart feels all warm, like an oven full of perfectly-risen pastries and also some other unquantifiable (and inedible) emotion that I haven’t felt in a while. In fact, I’ve not felt it since the ‘Great British Bake Off’ finished airing on the BBC last autumn and packed up its tent for the big move to Channel 4.

“The one big problem with the show, where it falls down in comparison to the ‘Bake Off’, is that viewers are unlikely to form emotional attachments to the contestants. There are just too many of them (a whopping 48). If Nadiya and her family had competed in this show instead of the Bake Off, it’s pretty unlikely she would have become the TV star she is today.”

“To be fair, for a first attempt it wasn’t bad. But in a way that was the problem. It needed more flavour or spicing up.

“The decision not to replace Mel and Sue with at least one comedian and give the job of fronting the show to Zoe Ball was just bizarre and ensured the humour content was reduced by, well, 100%. Any fan of ‘GBBO’ could have told them that had been one of the most important, popular, aspects of the show.

“Overall ‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ was too bland: very pally and a bit daytime.”

Telegraph (3/5)

“There was much to admire here. It was absorbingly paced and slickly produced, while the family dynamic lent instant warmth to the contestants’ interactions.

“However, the format also had its flaws. Forming emotional attachments to contestants, as ‘Bake Off’ fans annually do, could be tricky. There are simply too many of them (a whopping 48, in fact) and we won’t see the victorious Charleses again until October’s semi-final.

“It lacked a little humour, mainly due to the fact that Ball and Hussain, unlike Mel and Sue, aren’t a long-established comedy duo. ‘Bake Off’-esque innuendo was deliberately avoided, even when meatballs were on the menu.”

“The BBC has insisted that ‘Showdown’ is not meant to ‘replace’ GBBO, but the similarities hit you in the face all the time.

″‘Showdown’ has its endearing contestants just like ‘Great British Bake Off’ did. ‘Bake Off’ had beautiful illustrations to showcase the finished dishes; ‘Showdown’ has its own neat drawings.

“But the show needs to relax a bit, because it can easily be a cosy hit in its own right. Zoe is a natural with the contestants, and it’s always great to see Nadiya’s beaming smile on telly.

“However the judges need to stop holding back...The softly-softly approach is fine, but it won’t set it apart from that other cookery show we could mention. Hm, what’s it called again?”

The show continues on Tuesday (22 August) on BBC One.

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