If fans of The Great British Bake Off were hoping the show would retain its cosy feel after moving to Channel 4, they could be in for a shock.
Because alongside the reassuring presence of Prue Leith, confirmed yesterday as a judging partner for Paul Hollywood, is the inclusion of comedian Noel Fielding.
Fielding and Sandi Toksvig will be the new hosts of the show when it returns this summer, filling the roles vacated by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Leith replaces Mary Berry.
Best known for surreal comedy The Mighty Boosh, panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and his flamboyant dress sense, Fielding, 43, has a cult following.
He has been hired to appeal to Channel 4’s younger audience, and news of his surprise appointment was greeted enthusiastically by some on social media. His appeal to an older demographic is cause for doubt.
One Twitter user wrote:
My Mum went right off The Beatles when they 'went a bit weird' in '67. Noel Fielding is going to be, frankly, upsetting.— Pete Selby (@PeteSelby1) March 16, 2017
The comedian has also proved controversial in the past. When an art critic suggested that Fielding was a bad choice to interview Damien Hirst for a 2012 television profile, the comic urged his 700,000 Twitter followers to “teach that horrible snob a lesson” and send him insulting messages.
Jay Hunt, the Channel 4 boss who is taking a £75 million gamble on the programme, said Fielding and Toksvig “bring a fresh wit and quirkiness to the tent” in “the sort of innovative line-up audiences expect from Channel 4”.
Whether audiences are seeking innovation in The Great British Bake Off remains to be seen. The show attracted audiences of 15 million on BBC One by sticking to the same formula and much-loved presenting team.
Confirmation of the new line-up follows months of speculation about the new team. The production company were said to have considered everyone from Kirstie Allsopp to former Spice Girl Geri Horner (nee Halliwell).
Toksvig, who presents the Channel 4 quiz show Fifteen To One and hosted The News Quiz on Radio 4 for many years, said she was delighted to be partnered with Fielding.
“It is an extraordinary honour to be part of this national treasure of a show. Noel Fielding is one of the nicest guys in showbusiness.
“The first time I met him I felt like I had met a rather wayward cousin whose take on the world made me laugh. The only downside is that he has much better dress sense than I do,” she said.
“I spend my daytimes on Channel 4 already so it will be a treat to be there in the evenings.”
For his part, Fielding said: “GBBO is one of my favourite shows. I’ve always loved brightly coloured cakes and Sandi Toksvig, so this is a dream come true for me. It’s basically the double.”
Leith said she was honoured to be joining “the biggest show on TV”.
The chemistry in the original seven series of Bake Off was an integral part of the show’s success. Hollywood, the only one of the team to follow the programme to Channel 4, is optimistic about the new line-up.
“I could not be more delighted by who will be joining me on the show. Prue is a hugely respected culinary legend and Sandi and Noel are warm and utterly hilarious. I cannot wait to get back in the tent with the bakers,” he said.