Her name may be Prudence, but Bake Off’s new judge seems keen to do her best not to live up to it.
For Prue Leith risked the wrath of Channel 4 bosses yesterday by encouraging viewers to record the show or watch it on catch-up – so they can skip the adverts.
Miss Leith, 77, who has been brought in to replace Mary Berry following Bake Off’s switch from BBC1, hinted at the press launch for the hotly-anticipated new series which begins a week tonight that they could then fast-forward through the commercials.
‘I want to comfort some people who might think, “Oh I don’t want to go to Channel 4 because of the ads”,’ she said of the show’s controversial £75million switch from the BBC. ‘You don’t have to watch it real-time do you?’
Prue Leith risked the wrath of Channel 4 bosses yesterday by encouraging viewers to record the show or watch it on catch-up – so they can skip the adverts. The new series, starring Prue alongside Paul Hollywood and Noel Fielding (together above), begins next week
Her encouragement to fans to skip the 15 minutes of advertisements per episode is not the first time Miss Leith has left Channel 4 executives feeling as deflated as a badly-cooked souffle.
In yesterday’s Daily Mail she confessed that she tells some of the contestants whose creations are not up to scratch: ‘Sorry love, but it’s not worth the calories.’
She also revealed that she turned up for shooting on finals day wearing an apron with the slogan ‘What Would Mary Say?’
Restaurateur and cookery writer Miss Leith said her predecessor and good friend Miss Berry encouraged her to stand her ground against fellow judge Paul Hollywood when she signed up. Miss Leith said: ‘She told me, “Don’t just follow Paul, don’t stand behind Paul and agree with him, just be yourself and go for it,” and Paul told me the same thing.’
Her suggestion that viewers could skip the ads left Channel 4’s outgoing chief creative officer Jay Hunt looking forlorn. ‘She was doing so well,’ Miss Hunt said.
New chapter: Bake Off shocked fans by announcing the move to Channel 4 in September – after Love Productions agreed a three-year £75 million deal with the rival broadcasters
She refused to be drawn on bosses’ expectations for ratings for the new series. The BBC drew over 10million viewers an episode last year. Channel 4’s highest-rating shows get a live audience of around 3million.
Asked what would class as a ‘disaster’ for Bake Off, Miss Hunt said: ‘We’re not going into it. It’s a really good show, I think audiences are looking forward to it coming back and we’re optimistic about that.’
New presenter Noel Fielding quipped: ‘I think if we get five people watching it that would be good. Between five and 70million.’
The advertising breaks and the appearance of Fielding, Miss Leith and Sandi Toksvig alongside Hollywood – who has moved with the show from the BBC – are probably the main differences viewers will notice. The show has kept its format – and the innuendos.
Yesterday saw the identities of this year’s 12 contestants revealed at last. With a diversity to be expected for a Channel 4 show, they include an NHS biologist who lives with her wife and cat, a Scottish architect who lives with his male partner, a health and safety inspector, a cancer survivor, a former Army officer and a student from Hackney, North London.
In the first episode, the pressure is on from the start, with some cakes ending up in the bin.
The Great British Bake Off begins next Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 4.