The Great Kiwi Bake Off (TVNZ 2, 7:00pm Sundays)
It's set in a big pastel-hued kitchen strewn with bunting and vintage tea towels; the contestants are uniformly lovely and kind to each other. The Great Kiwi Bake Off is rightly held aloft as our one nice reality show – but it's also by far the most devastating.
To acknowledge the show's layer of emotional brutality is to appreciate the judging of professional caterer Sue Fleischl. The way she can completely dismantle a baker's whole world in just a few words – sometimes as little as a single syllable – has to be seen to be believed.
With Fleischl there is no room for doubt, no option to "agree to disagree". If she says your lamington was sub-par, you know, deep down, that it was sub-par and that by extension you are sub-par too.
Fleischl has turned up for the second edition of New Zealand's Bake Off in sensational form. The show's format has grown from two to three challenges each week – a signature bake, a technical bake and a showstopper, like they have in the original British version. This means the top three bakers face 24 daunting opportunities to disappoint Fleischl.
Most of this season's 10 bakers have already felt the sting of a Fleischl burn during the first episode, Cake Week. For the technical challenge, she wanted everybody to make a battenberg – a checkerboard-patterned pink and yellow cake covered in marzipan – and provided a vaguely worded recipe to follow.
"It's all gibberish," shrugged South Otago grandma Donna, doomed from the very start.
Donna's battenberg was a disaster. For a start, it had six squares instead of the standard four. "Oh," said Fleischl as she sliced into it, a single syllable carrying a crushing weight of disappointment. "Doughy," commented her judging sidekick Dean Brettschneider, who is often mistaken for the scary judge. Donna was ultimately evicted after producing a psychedelic showstopper cake that looked like a 1970s carpet pattern.
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No baker misinterpreted the confusing checkerboard instructions quite as badly as Naomi, whose battenberg was sliced to reveal a horrifyingly uneven three squares. "Oh," said Fleischl again, but this time in a completely different way. This was the kind of "oh" you might utter involuntarily after seeing someone suffer a horrific broken leg in a game of soccer.
While other bakers got the number of squares right, most failed in other ways. "Something's happened here," Fleischl said circumspectly eyeing Anadil's slumping effort, "What a shame." Ethan's was presented with a gaping crack running along the middle. "Quite untidy," she remarked with trademark understatement.
It is important to note here that Fleischl is not a villain. She is, in fact, unfailingly kind to the bakers and wants nothing more than for them to succeed. This is precisely why it's so heartbreaking when they inevitably let her down.
The flip side to this is the pure joy of seeing a contestant meet her expectations. "Nicely baked, not overcooked," she praised Southland farmer Heather, who was ultimately anointed week one's Star Baker, her battenberg earning the ultimate praise. "Good," said Fleischl.