TV Viewpoint: The Great British Bake Off and Falling Inn Love

I’ve been reading Kitchen Confidential, the late superstar chef Anthony Bourdain’s juggernaut autobiographical race through his career in the kitchen, from tasting all the French delicacies he could get his hands on as a boy on vacation to France to reaching the highest echelon of his career in the restaurant game and beyond to his successful writing and television endeavours. While training at the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the Intelligence Agency from which Carrie from Homeland protects American interests), he remarks of the would-be pastry chefs “I’d seen the work of an over eager patissier can do – I’d seen their instructor’s work – and most of it was awful, as so much pastry and garde-manger work is when the chef starts thinking he’s an artist rather than a craftsman.” That I read this passage mere hours after watching the first episode of the return of The Great British Bake Off was pure coincidence, but serendipitous it was in its timing.

Bake Off, as we long-time fans call it, is now in its tenth year, and third on Channel 4, Tuesday evenings at 8.00pm. It’s gone from cosy little blip on the schedule to event TV, and like Big Brother before it its contestants have increased in eccentricity and self-awareness along the way. When one contestant with a hand full of burnt and bandaged fingers exclaimed to another “You’re doing the Bake Off thing!” in response to his rival’s wafting of his too-warm-to-ice cake with a baking tray, I feared the worst. When the ambitious creations were presented to the judges with extra little decorative bits that were entirely surplus to the brief, my fears were almost confirmed – have the bakers crossed over into style over substance territory, beyond craftsmanship and into artistry, as Bourdain so clearly despaired of?

Yes and no. While yes, the contestants are well versed in how to get the most air time and certainly savvier than their earlier contemporaries, the nice, good-natured aspect of the show is still there, its affable little heart beating loud. The double-entendres are encouraged, the really brusque criticism from the judges taken on the chin, albeit with wobbling lips and sympathetic encouragement from hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig and the general niceness of it all is intact. At the time of writing episode two was still to be aired, and it will have been and gone by the time you read this. So with any luck my assessment will still hold up – comments are open if you care to disagree!

Have you ever seen a title for a TV movie and had the sneaking suspicion that it was thought up in a writer’s room brainstorming session, the plot coming later and designed to fit around the original idea? The latest to have raised my eyebrow thus is Falling Inn Love, a Netflix original movie the likes of which have traditionally been made especially for the Hallmark Channel. The title says it all really, with a little padding here and there to move what passes for a plot along; a young American woman enters and wins a competition to own a country inn, once she arrives (in New Zealand!) to claim her prize she discovers that it’s in a desperate state of disrepair so she must enlist the help of the local eccentrics to fix it up and finds love with one of them along the way.

There’s literally no more to it than that, barring a slight conflict that’s easily resolved, shoved in in order to meet the rules of TV moviemaking, but despite the horrible title and paint-by-numbers plot I found it a cut above the rest, veteran TV movie watcher that I am. Winning performances from the two leads, Christina Milian and Adam Devos enrich the predictability, and the supporting characters are distinctly less annoying than the stock characters usually employed in such a film. If you find yourself at a loose end some rainy afternoon you could do worse than putting this on, switching off your brain and imbibing a few brews. Like a soothing cup of tea it may not be exciting, but it’s a reliable, warm dose of comfort.

  • Full disclosure; I was half a bottle of champagne in when I started watching Falling Inn Love, and a good lot more was consumed during the viewing (I was celebrating passing my driving test earlier that day, so my happy hormones were also firing on all cylinders), so it may not be as good as I remember it being; my boyfriend was certainly bemused that I liked it as much as I did. So please take that on board as well, and don’t blame me if it’s actually the worst TV movie ever made. Thanks!
  • This review was first published in The Tuam Herald on 04 09 19.

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