Don’t you think that more competition shows would benefit from having a RuPaul’s Drag Race-style Miss Congeniality prize?
Think about it; we all have those contestants we can’t help but fall in love with, even if they’re not the most technically proficient.
Think Chris Ramsey or Alex Scott on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, or beloved mother and son Jo and Sam on Race Across The World.
They’re the contestants who had particularly meaningful journeys and overcame unique obstacles, even if they were never realistically going to actually win.
Well, now that the Great British Bake Off is all done and flour-dusted for another year, I’m wondering if – in this case – embattled serial-survivor Laura Adlington is the one that deserves that sort of honour.
It’s a crowded field, for sure: despite this series’ few flaws (slightly over-complicated challenges, lack of air conditioning, the continued prominence of Mr bloody Spoon), the casting was spot-on, and there were several bakers who rightly became huge fan favourites as the weeks went on.
The dry wit of Lottie, the unassuming talent of Hermine, the lovely hair of Mark, the bewildered facial expressions of Sura… it was truly sad to watch someone go at the end of every episode, even if baby-faced assassin Peter was the clear winner from very early on.
But for having the toughest journey of all – both on and off-screen – it’s Digital Manager and Samaritans volunteer Laura who was perhaps my favourite from the class of 2020.
From becoming the first female Star Baker of the year one moment to forgetting to set her ice cream maker to ‘cold’ the next, she was a messy and chaotic queen fit for a messy and chaotic year – and I for one found her extremely relatable.
She was good fun, too; and when things started to get a bit hairy for her and Lottie in 80s Week, they were a more entertaining double-act than Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas.
While she may not have generated as much discussion as, say, Lottie or Peter, she was funny, straight-talking, self-deprecating, had no filter, and – even when things got so overwhelming that she needed a little cry – she always came fighting back with a showstopper that could carry her through to the next round.
Her secret weapon? The fact that, even though presentation was most often her downfall, she was always saved by her ability to tick the most important box of all: taste.
Her flavours were regularly hailed by Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, and although she was very much the underdog in yesterday’s finale, it was her apparently ‘heavenly’-tasting Showstopper that perhaps got the most glowing critiques of the night.
Sadly though, GBBO wasn’t just a tumultuous experience for her on-camera, it was also decidedly bumpy in the ‘real world’, thanks to the meaner sides of the TV-watching public.
Laura, like many bakers, had a couple of near-misses when it came to the eliminations; but it was unfortunate that – in her case – they always came on weeks when massive fan favourites like Lottie or Hermine ended up being the ones who went (Peter, by comparison, was saved on his bad weeks at the expense of people like under-performing Rowan and lovely-but-quiet Marc).
Hermine’s elimination, in particular, sparked a huge storm online – with many viewers letting their (understandable!) disappointment over her exit become (not understandable!) anger and vitriol towards poor Laura.
The situation got so ugly that Hermine herself had to call out the poor behaviour, and Paul had to remind everyone of two key points: firstly, that series-long report cards count for nothing and that each week is judged solely on its own merits (remember when Prue told Lottie that she just had to ‘not be the worst’?).
Secondly, that there’s only so much armchair judging we as viewers can do because we can’t actually taste the damn food like the actual judges can.
When Laura had to take to Twitter herself and point out that ‘GBBO is all about kindness and I haven’t seen much of that on here’, it was heartbreaking; and I really hope that whole furore didn’t sour the experience too much for her.
The fact that social media seemed to be flooded with sympathy when her signature and technical challenges went awry last night indicates that people have generally been more supportive than not.
So, while Peter was very much the deserving winner of this year’s cycle, if we could also unofficially introduce a Miss Congeniality award to proceedings, in my eyes Laura would walk it.
I hope we see her and fellow faves Lottie and Hermine back for a fun Christmas special at some point very, very soon.