Season 6 of 'The Great British Bake Off'
Everett Collection
August 4, 2022 8:30 AM EDT

Reality TV may seem like a quintessentially American genre, but many of our biggest unscripted series originated in the U.K. American Idol, Undercover Boss, Love Island—these shows were all hits on the other side of the Atlantic first. And one feature in particular—the harsh British competition-show judge, as epitomized by Simon Cowell on Idol and the notoriously temperamental Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen—had hardened into a stock character on American TV by the mid-’00s.

So it’s perhaps surprising that the unscripted sphere’s most significant U.K. import in recent memory is so remarkably gentle. BBC One’s The Great British Bake Off (titled The Great British Baking Show in the U.S. for copyright reasons) pits some of the most talented home bakers in the U.K. against one another in a multi-week contest whose only real prize is the esteem of a global viewership. Maybe it’s the lack of monetary incentive that makes each cast so friendly, or maybe the producers avoid casting any “not here to make friends” bullies. Whatever the reason, Bake Off leveled up, stateside, from cult favorite to massive hit with its extra-sweet sixth season. One of the last to feature the beloved original lineup of hosts and judges, its greatest draw was the winner: Nadiya Hussain, an ebullient, magnetic mom who challenged stereotypes about observant Muslim women and went on to become a food-TV star in her own right. —Judy Berman

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