The Great British Baking Show is iconic comfort TV for one reason: It’s comforting. It’s simple. A bunch of nice people are in a tent, they get told to bake a specific thing, judge Paul Hollywood finds something nice to say about everything they bake (if it looks like shit, he’ll say it tastes good, if it tastes like shit, he’ll say it at least looks good), then someone wins and someone else gets sent home. Along the way, you get to see various cakes and cookies, and maybe learn a little about different kinds of pastries or whatever.
It’s not challenging, it’s not stressful. It’s just nice. And that’s not a criticism! That’s why the show has found such success, at least here in America, and that makes it perfect for the streaming model of viewers just putting it on and letting it play while they do other things. But by that same token, it’s why the backlash to any sort of change on the show tends to be pretty strong—just ask any longtime fans if they prefer the original BBC incarnation or its more recent Channel 4 seasons. It’s hard for something to be comforting when it starts to drift away from what made it comforting in the first place.
And that is also precisely why every attempt to do an American adaptation of the show has failed to hit as hard as the original, even here in America. People want The Great British Baking Show, which is enormously easy to watch on Netflix. They don’t want a similar thing with different hosts and judges. Fans don’t even like it when the regular show has different hosts and judges.
Which is why Roku’s soft reboot of The Great American Baking Show, preceded by a celebrity holiday special late last year, is so smart: The contestants are American amateur bakers and the hosts are American funny people Zach Cherry and Ellie Kemper but—very crucially—the judges are Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith from the current seasons of British Baking Show and it’s filmed in the exact same tent-kitchen as the regular British series. That means the show is effectively no different from the British version, but with the added benefit of having good hosts that are very likable instead of Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas (who seemed to grate on viewers more and more every second they were onscreen in the British show).
This is technically the show’s sixth season, with the previous five airing on ABC, and though Hollywood joined in season three, every other season has had to shake up the hosts and judges because (for one reason or another) things weren’t working. Roku is essentially presenting this as a new show, and it’s well-justified in doing that, because this basically feels like a whole new show … which is to say that it feels just like the original show. A bunch of nice people are in a tent, they get told to bake a specific thing, judge Paul Hollywood finds something nice to say about everything they bake (if it looks like shit, he’ll say it tastes good, if it tastes like shit, he’ll say it at least looks good), then someone wins and someone else gets sent home.
The sense of humor is also the same, with Kemper and Cherry opening each episode with some cute little skit based around that episode’s theme, and like the skits in the British version, they’re not so much funny as they are … there. Which is fine! It’s a baking competition, not Saturday Night Live, and it helps that Kemper and Cherry both have a gentle presence. They don’t ever seem like they’re above the show or that they’re only on the show to make it more interesting than it otherwise would be (which is a balance that Fielding and Lucas had trouble with, so some of their jokes became condescending).
It also helps that moving to Roku makes The Great American Baking Show a streaming series again, which is surely how most American viewers watch the British show, so they won’t have to worry about tuning in to ABC at the right time on the right day (it’s weird that TV used to work like that, right?). Also, by treating this as a reboot of sorts, the show can stick to the basics in terms of what challenges are being given to the bakers. In the premiere, for example, the bakers are asked to make macarons for a cookie challenge—not birdhouses built of macarons or weird savory macarons filled with some gross British meat, which are the sorts of things that come up on the original show—they’re just regular French macarons.
The best thing you can say about The Great American Baking Show is that it’s The Great British Baking Show but more American (and only slightly more American at that).
[Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly noted that the show is filmed in America. It is actually filmed in the U.K. in the same tent as the British show. We regret the error.]