Pop Culture Shenanigans

The Two Sides Of Trusting The Internet To Recommend Things

Often times the internet and my friends within, recommend something and I have to check it out. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, and weirdly in the last two weeks I had shocking results from two big things being discussed in my circle of exposure: The Great British Bake Off and S-Town. I’m going to talk about the baking show first and then I’m going to try to talk about S-Town in as VAGUE of a manner as possible. BUT! If you want to stay 100% unaware, you might want to skip that section. There are a few key elements I have to discuss although I won’t discuss the who or the when, you will be spoiled a little if you read my thoughts on the podcast.

The Great British Bake Off

There are two things lately that have really helped stifle my anxiety. 1) I’ve gotten back into running (34 miles in 3 days!) and 2) THIS DAMN BAKING SHOW. I’m so sad there are only 3 seasons on Netflix because listening to British people talk and then watching footage of hands kneading dough and piping icing are two of the most SOOTHING DAMN THINGS ON THIS PLANET.

First off: I do not watch Food Television. Never. Ever. It’s just not something I’ve ever enjoyed because I don’t like cooking so I don’t find it interesting. But GBBO was recommended by so many different people and I was so bored one day I thought: Well, let’s just give it ONE CHANCE. (FYI: While the show is called The Great British Bake Off on the BBC, Netflix calls it The Great British Baking Show.)

The first thing I fell in love with are the hosts/comic relief: Mel Giedroyc & Sue Perkins. I guess they’ve worked together for decades and I love them. They have great chemistry together and they seem 100% invested in the lives of the contestants. If a baker is having a breakdown, they really sincerely seem to care. I’ve also read articles that indicate they threatened to walk off the first season when they felt like producers were starting to try to force unrelated drama into situations. This is one of the things I love about the show, they don’t seem to be trying to capitalize on the pain of the contestants. If someone screws up it’s pointed out gently and then we all move on.

Legend also indicates that if a contestant is having a REALLY BAD breakdown, those two will stand in front of the cameras and use foul language so they can’t use the footage.

But besides Mel & Sue (who I think are leaving the show but it won’t matter because I think we’re several years behind on Netflix) the contestants are relatable (they have real jobs during the week and film this on the weekend) and the judges are harsh, but in the nicest way possible. I just adore it. I’ve been watching it before bed every night and it truly helps me wind down with the accents and the piping icing, and the kneading of the dough. I ADORE IT. Netflix has three season on it, but the best I can tell they’re actually seasons 4,5 and 6. Also, it seems the BBC version has a lot more extras than we get, like cooking lessons and historical deep dives.

Either way – it is LOVELY. Try it!


UGG. The podcast everyone in the world loves and I hated. Truly. Now, I’m not going to spoil things completely but my comments WILL SPOIL THINGS FOR YOU. I will be as vague as possible but some stuff I just have to come out and mention even without names/details. I really hope my distaste does not offend anyone who loved it. I hate to yuck the yums or poop on the joy of others. Please know that 100% of my hatred of this podcast can be connected to very personal connections to the story that maybe you don’t have. So I’m not saying EVERYONE should hate it, but there was no way around me hating it…with my personal history and my well-documented reaction to some elements used in this show.

The show starts as an investigation into a crime brought to the attention of a journalist by a unique character in Woodstock, Alabama. And what starts as an intriguing “Who Done It” mixed with a little bit of “sideshow display” type treatment of Alabama…quickly changes course when a character dies (the journalist mentions a death as a spoiler early on) in a way I found upsetting and then we deep-dive into this person’s life for the rest of the season. I felt like the death was exploited and the deep dive was done with no permission whatsoever. I kept listening through the season for what I was hoping would be some sort of recording of consent for this creepy dig into this person’s life, and when the season ended and I never got that? I felt terrible. Like I had been a part in some sort of perverted peeping Tom behavior.

It didn’t help that many of these elements hit close to home: Characters who felt out of place in Alabama. Mental Health. Racism and Homophobia. There were very few moments in the show where some raw spot on my heart and mind was not being picked at to make bleed. It almost felt like someone sat down and said, “How can we build a story that will upset Zoot the most?” And then went at it from there.

I felt dirty and ashamed for listening. I felt like I owed an apology to so many people involved for listening to this perversion of their lives. And yes, we’re all adults and many agreed to be part of this, but did they really know what they were getting into? Do we ever? Just because someone gave permission to be part of something, does not mean they want to be part of what that becomes and I didn’t like the idea of these real people being treated like fictional characters in a overly dramatized fiction.

But – like I said – it picked at several raw spots in my heart so not everyone is going to react as violently as I did.

SO! What have you been enjoying/hating lately?

9 thoughts on “The Two Sides Of Trusting The Internet To Recommend Things”

  1. I am glad you enjoy GBBO! I find it incredibly soothing as well. Like a cheeky brutish lullaby I can fall asleep to. I even found the music on Amazon prime and listen as I work to keep me zen.

    Since I am in the food business I don’t enjoy the drama and stress of food contest shows (it hits too close to home and they work their way into my stress dreams).

    Have a great day and


  2. Yes, they have now left the show as it’s moving from the BBC to channel 4 which is an independent channel. Seemingly boring except the UK was in uproar over it! We, as you do, love M and S and them working with Mary and Paul.


    There are 7 seasons with them so you’ve got a few left to enjoy.

    Now they’ve allocated quite a random pair of new presenters who haven’t worked together like Mel and Sue has. It comes out in Autumn…time will tell what it’s like.

    Maybe more detail than you’re interested in…sorry!

  3. I love the GBBO! I watched those 3 seasons you mentioned as they aired on PBS. Are all 7 seasons available on Netflix? Mel and Sue are awesome and so is Mary. I read about the big break-up (Mary left too, I think), and I was so disappointed. I did watch some of the extras on PBS at the holidays; they were Paul and Mary showing how to bake the more difficult things. Interesting but not as good as the show.

    I recently streamed Downton Abbey through Amazon Prime. It was as great as everyone told me it was. Sometimes a bit melodramatic, but that was to be expected. Plus it has those lovely British accents and Maggie Smith is a treasure. I was sad when I finished all the seasons.

  4. I have no connections to anything even remotely related to S-Town, and I also felt icky after listening. It did feel really exploitative, treating a man’s despair and downfall as entertainment. I listened to it all hoping for some redemption that never came. Did not like.

  5. I will fourth, fifth and sixth my love of GBBO and I am so sad the gang has broken up.

    As for S-Town – I believe your criticisms are completely spot on. The story changed and I can’t imagine the people who were interviewed expected it to take the shape it did.

    Despite all of that, I am glad I listened. I think I will always have John B’s voice as a voice in my head.

  6. I feel like anyone who lives in a rural area can relate to the ickiness of S-Town. I was confused about whether this was fiction or journalism. I settled on fiction, an aural novel, because to me, as a rural attorney, the characters are clichés. Then Slate Culture Gabfest treated it like journalism and ugggggggggh. No, too much information that wasn’t given permission to use.

  7. I have yet to watch GBBO but it is on the list!

    I also had icky feelings about S-Town and felt lured into something that I did not want to participate in. I agree with the comparisons to an aural novel. But as someone who always felt different living in small Kansas towns, I related to John B on a level and that’s why I kept listening. Toward the end, I did think the turn of the story became exploitative of John B.

  8. Regarding S-Town…im happy to have been introduced to such an interesting person as John B, and I wish he was still around to meet. I had some of the same concerns you had…though I’m not in Alabama, I was born and grew up in semi-rural West Virginia, and things can be very similar.

    Did you see this article on Slate? It was a good read too. http://slate.me/2nBeVoX

  9. I just finished binge watching those same 3 seasons of the Great British Baking Show! I’m feeling kind of adrift now that I have nothing to watch. I love that show — it was indeed very soothing but also very watchable and exciting. And the judges were terrific. I hope the new version will be as good, but I doubt it — just won’t be the same without Mary Berry, Sue or Mel.

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