The Great British Baking Show Is Better Off Without Matt Lucas

The departure of the controversial host could signal a shift back to the show's roots.

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Screenshot: YouTube/Great British Bake Off

People are passionate about The Great British Baking Show. The show’s genial and calming nature provides a great comfort to those who watch religiously, and both the contestants and their creations are hard not to love, soggy bottoms and all. So when something within that reliable structure changes, fans of the show get very defensive. When judge Mary Berry and hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc left GBBO back in 2016, for example, fans declared the show dead. This season, the internet was ablaze during the corny, cringey catastrophe that was Mexican Week. But nothing seems to have incited fans of the show more than the presence of host Matt Lucas. And GBBO-heads are rejoicing this week with the news that he won’t be returning,

Reactions to Matt Lucas’ departure

Lucas announced his departure from the show earlier this week via Instagram, writing that he has too many other projects to maintain his Bake Off duties. While there was plenty of love shown to the comedian in the comments of his announcement, including from fellow host Noel Fielding and judge Paul Hollywood, elsewhere on social media the sentiments were a bit different.

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“You have to give it to Matt Lucas, the man joined the UK’s most beloved show and made it unwatchable before its first ad break with him as host,” wrote Twitter user @scottaawilson.

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“Matt Lucas leaving #GBBO is bigger for us as a nation than winning any football tournament could ever be,” @Slaaayfabe tweeted.

“Seeing the genuine joy about matt lucas leaving bake off everywhere i look…we really are a community,” posted Discourse Blog editor Jack Mirkinson.

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What exactly was it about Matt Lucas that rubbed us all unanimously the wrong way?

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Where do I even begin? He’s been called cringey, irritating, salty, obnoxious, not empathetic, and just overall annoying. And while any single one of those attributes could be enough to incite an online mob, the biggest offense seems to be that, at the end of the day, Lucas didn’t understand what show he was on.

No one knew how to feel about Noel Fielding when he first started on Bake Off, and similar to Lucas, his comedic background was one that tracked as a bit more bizarre and erratic. But over time he was able to meet the show where it was, making genuine connections with each contest while maintaining his unique personality via his signature outlandish sweaters.

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What Lucas seemed to forget in his hosting role was that the show was never about him. The show wasn’t even ever about the beloved Mary Berry, really. It has always been about letting the amateur bakers shine like the stars (and star bakers) they are. The best moments in the series are never the pre-planned quips, but the genuine reactions and moments of connection between the very real people on the show, ones who exhibit kindness and patience above all else. In an attempt to garner attention, Lucas became the antithesis of those virtues.

Sue Perkins, Mel Giedroyc, and why The Great British Baking Show will never be the same

Then again, it’s not entirely Lucas’ fault. When he announced his departure, fans instantly became nostalgic for the show’s original hosting duo, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who together were the epitome of kind and caring while still being entertaining and endlessly watchable. When they left (in the same year Mary Berry announced her departure), the series underwent a palpable vibe shift.

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According to a recent interview with Perkins in Vulture, the shift predates the duo quitting the show and, in fact, is what caused them to leave. Perkins says:

Very early on, they were putting cameras in people’s faces and they were saying, “Does this collapsed marmalade loaf remind you of your dead father?” And everyone was just crying around. It had that template of those reality shows which were very front-foot and very punchy. And Mel and I were like, “Oh, no, we can’t do this. I’m really sorry.” They were like, “What do you mean?” I said, “No, we’re resigning now.” And of course, you’d say it’s just a cake — and that’s true and not true at the same time. Technically it’s a cake, but also for them it’s about achieving, and it’s about pushing themselves.

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If the show was attempting to go in the direction of a very dramatic cooking competition a la Hell’s Kitchen, then it’s no wonder production would put someone like Lucas at the helm. Behind every chaotic reality television moment is a villainous orchestrator, and maybe Lucas was meant to be just that. Whoever steps into the role next will play a big part in determining whether GBBO stays warm and fuzzy or becomes something completely unrecognizable from the relaxing baking show we all fell in love with.