A new season of The Great British Baking Show debuted on Netflix this week in a form unusual for the streaming service—it’s being released one episode per week. “Collection Seven” marks the first time US and UK viewers have been able to watch the show at the same time, or almost at the same time. Each episode is available on Netflix three days after it first airs in the UK. (There have been 10 seasons of the show in the UK, where it’s called The Great British Bake Off, whereas the US is just now getting its seventh.)
The weekly release is a surprising choice for Netflix, which more or less created binge-watching. It’s great news for GBBS fans, though. The show is far better savored over several months than gobbled down in one or two all-you-can-eat buffets of pastries, tortes, and tennis cakes. Here’s why.
One of the reasons that a mild-mannered baking contest has been such a runaway hit has to do with scarcity—there’s nothing else on television that consistently provides the warm, fuzzy good vibes that the GBBS and it’s ever-pleasant contestants do. With only 10 or so new episodes a year (give or take a holiday special or two), you have to dole them out to yourself carefully to prolong the enjoyment. When an entire collection drops at once, and the next episode automatically starts playing no sooner than the week’s star baker is revealed, it’s next to impossible to watch just one at a time. As my colleague Ephrat Livni wrote, “You can forget about willpower. Many psychologists no longer believe in it.”
Netflix is performing a service for those of us who accept that we will always want to watch just one episode more, which we will definitely regret in the morning.
One of the lovely aspects of the GBBS is that the stakes are very low. The contestants compete for the honor (and a cake-stand trophy) but not a cash prize. Each episode follows a predictable formula involving three bakes, some host hijinks, and then someone going home. The real pleasure is in the nuance: the weird cake that judge Prue Leith chose as a technical challenge, or whether a baker really deserved the Hollywood Handshake for those eclairs. There’s no time to fully register, mull over, and discuss those small but crucial details when you binge-watch a whole season.
No one needs a reason to bake, but it’s usually more fun if you have one. Binge-watch the new season in its entirety and you get the opportunity to bake once, maybe twice. Follow along over the course of 10 episodes, and that’s 10 chances to try new cookie, pie, and cake recipes.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with binge-watching the GBBS. You’re free to grit your teeth and wait until the entire collection has aired and binge it all at once then. Or binge past seasons. The weekly release schedule may even be a Netflix experiment to see how the way we’re watching streaming content is changing. For now, though, consider it a public service.