Great British Bake Off: ‘Excellent’ Matt Lucas charms critics on show debut

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C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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Lucas with co-host Noel Fielding (far right) and judges Paul Hollywood (left) and Prue Leith

Critics have welcomed the return of The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4, whose latest series has Matt Lucas as co-host instead of Sandi Toksvig.

The Independent said the comic was an “excellent choice” who brought “a pinch of wit and surrealism” to the show.

The Telegraph noted he appeared “a tad nervous” but was “sweetly supportive” to this year’s 12 baking hopefuls.

The contestants and others working on the show stayed in a hotel in Essex throughout the duration of filming.

Participants were asked to stay in the secure filming location due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The episode was watched by an average audience of 6.9 million – the largest audience for a launch episode since the show moved to the channel in 2017.

Do not read on if you do not want to know anything more about this year’s series opener.

According to The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson, Lucas looked “genuinely thrilled” and “a little overwhelmed” on his debut appearance.

The Little Britain star, she said, “wears the look of a competition winner getting his lifelong wish of a tour of the tent”.

Grace Henry of The Radio Times applauded his “natural hosting ability” and the way “jokes rolled off his tongue”.

She also praised his comforting of a contestant after she accidentally knocked over one of her fellow hopeful’s creations.

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C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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Lucas with Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and contestants Hermine (left) and Marc (behind)

“This moment really showed Lucas’s role as a presenter on the series,” she continued.

“It proved that his place on the show isn’t all about dishing out cheeky one-liners or fooling about in the tent.”

According to The Independent’s Sean O’Grady, however, Lucas’s arrival leaves his co-host Noel Fielding looking “bewildered”.

Fielding, the critic suggests, “seems strangely diminished by the arrival of the diminutive Lucas, who out-bants him with a bit too much ease”.

The first episode saw contestants tasked with making miniature upside-down pineapple cakes and busts depicting their personal celebrity heroes.

Sir David Attenborough, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Louis Theroux were among the famous faces immortalised in icing.

In her review, Nicholson said she was left “near-hysterical” by what she said was one of the funniest showstoppers in the show’s 11-series history.

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh, meanwhile, said the likeness of Mercury – “a cross between a Playmobil man and Frank Sidebottom” – was an “early frontrunner for iconic Bake Off status”.

Peter, an accounting and finance student from Edinburgh, was named star baker while Loriea, a diagnostic radiographer from Durham, became the first contestant to leave.

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C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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Fielding (left) joined the show when it moved from the BBC to Channel 4

Having had its production put back due to the pandemic, Tuesday’s edition was further delayed to accommodate Boris Johnson’s televised address to the nation.

Carol Midgley of The Times said this was “amusing and fortuitous for Lucas”, who kicked off the programme with an impersonation of the prime minister in a tousled blonde wig.

“This was as good an opening episode as I’ve seen,” she concluded. “Lucas proved a good addition, balancing a tea cup then a rolling pin on his head, singing Roger Whittaker songs and eating a lot of cake.”

In her Telegraph review, Singh said “normal Bake Off service has been resumed” after a 2019 series she suggested had had “a mean streak”.

“Viewers disliked it and the producers have clearly taken this on board,” she wrote.

The show prompted a rousing reception by social media users, one of whom said its return “has just saved the absolute mess that is 2020”.

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