The untold truth of The Great American Baking Show

The Great American Baking Show has seen quite a bit of drama in its few short years on the air. A spin-off of the beloved British show, The Great British Bake Off, The Great American Baking Show first aired in 2015. While it wasn't exactly a smash hit right off the bat, the show has a dedicated following which eagerly awaits each new season of amateur bakers.

Each season of The Great American Baking Show features a group of bakers showing off their skills. They might not be pros, but in many cases that's an advantage, and it definitely makes for great entertainment. The show has remained on the air in spite of a near-cancellation following a major scandal, proving that this is a competition with staying power. What is it that keeps drawing viewers in and networks approving new seasons in spite of hardships? Let's find out. Here's the untold truth of The Great American Baking Show.

An earlier incarnation of the show flopped

The Great American Baking Show isn't the first attempt at creating an American version of The Great British Bake Off. Back in 2013, an American adaptation of the show was introduced as The Great American Baking Competition. While people hoped it would prove to be the hit that The Great British Bake Off was, it flopped.

The show lasted for only one season, and was not well-received by audiences or critics. Dismal ratings led the show to be cancelled, with many pointing the blame at co-host Paul Hollywood claiming that he didn't make a big enough impact on American audiences. Fortunately, the failed show wasn't the end of the road, and it was revived in a slightly different format in 2015. This time, the show aired during the Christmas season and was titled The Great Holiday Baking Show. This then became the first season of The Great American Baking Show as we know it today.

Fans don't think it measures up to the original

While The Great American Baking Show is almost identical to The Great British Bake Off, fans of the original version weren't too impressed when it first aired. Many viewers didn't think it lived up to the original, considering it a watered-down version of The Great British Bake Off. The Great British Bake Off is one of the most-watched and beloved shows in the UK, but ratings of the American version of the show are nowhere near as high.

Fans were excited when it was announced that the British Mary Berry, who appears on The Great British Bake Off, would be a judge on The Great American Baking Show, but the excitement didn't translate to ratings. While fans were thrilled to see Berry judging on the competition, they thought she was the best part of the show and that the rest didn't measure up to the original.

The audition process is intense

Think you've got what it takes to be on The Great American Baking Show? You'll have to go through a lot to prove yourself. The process to audition for the show is pretty intense, and requires a lot of work. According to Michael Wolfe, a doctor who competed on the show in 2016, there are several rounds of auditions and interviews before a contestant is chosen for the show. Wolfe sent in his bio and pictures of his baked goods to ABC. After that he had a 30 minute phone interview where he had to prove his knowledge of baking.

It was only after passing the phone interview that Wolfe was invited to actually audition for the show. Auditions are held around the US, and Wolfe went to two auditions where he had to bake several dishes that were then tasted and judged by professional chefs. After that there was a screen test and an on-camera interview. Wolfe said that the audition process was fun, but grueling, especially as he had to maneuver around his hectic work schedule.

Contestants don't get much time to sleep

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to compete on The Great American Baking Show,there's an easy way to get a feel for what the competition is like: time yourself to see how long you can go without sleeping. According to former contestant JC Gregg, contestants get very little down time while the show is filming. While he claimed that he only needs four and a half hours of sleep, those who need a full eight hours of shut-eye might not want to appear on the show.

Each episode takes two days to film. The baking starts at 6:30 in the morning and lasts until 10 p.m. The contestants get the next day to prepare for the next challenge (and hopefully catch up on some sleep). The grueling schedule is definitely not for everyone, and even the most avid bakers would probably have trouble staying awake.

For a competition show, it isn't very competitive

If you've ever watched a reality TV competition, you know how cutthroat they can be — especially reality cooking competitions. Competitive cooking shows tend to be filled with drama and rivalries can be intense, but The Great American Baking Show isn't your typical cooking competition.  The Great British Bake Off broke the mold with cooking shows by encouraging friendly competition, and The Great American Baking Show follows suit. Competitors tend to get pretty chummy, and the positive environment is the same on the American version of the show.

Competitors strike up friendships on the show and get along quite well, which is unusual for a show of its type. Of course, the fact that there's no cash prize or even a job offer for the winner probably cuts down on feuds springing up between contestants. It's a lot easier to stay friendly with your fellow contestants when there aren't more than bragging rights on the line.

Sexual harassment allegations almost ended the show for good

The show almost came to a screeching halt in 2017 when allegations of sexual misconduct were made known. Judge Johnny Iuzzini came under fire after several women came forward saying that they were subjected to sexual harassment while working under Iuzzini several years earlier. "He would stand behind you really closely and breathe on your neck," a pastry chef who worked with Iuzzini told Mic. "I think he did things to make people uncomfortable, and to see what he could get away with." One of the chefs said he stuck his tongue in her ear, and others claimed he often simulated sex acts with them from behind. 

Iuzzini denied the allegations, although he apologized if he had inadvertently harmed anyone. "I am shattered and heartbroken at the thought that any of my actions left members of my team feeling hurt or degraded," he said in a statement. "More importantly, I am deeply sorry to those who felt hurt."

Whether or not Iuzzini was guilty, the damage was done. The Great American Baking Show was part way through its third season when the allegations came to light, and the decision was made to fire Iuzzini and not air the remaining episodes of the show.

Season three winner Valerie Lomas was cheated out of her victory moment

Season three winner Valerie Lomas was understandably disappointed when the episodes she was featured in were pulled off the air. On a show that offers no major prize to the winner other than the publicity it brings, this meant that Lomas was not just cheated out of her victory moment airing on TV — but also that much of her hard work went unrewarded. "After investing the time and energy, it's all very surprising," Lomas told Munchies. "What happened is certainly not what I thought was in the realm of possibility of what could happen when I went on the show."

Lomas was committed to the show and even skipped her friend's wedding for filming. She was understandably devastated that most of the episodes never aired, but she tried to turn it into something positive. "I realized that I just have to take all that energy and use it as fuel to continue to put myself out there, to continue baking, to continue being creative," she said.

Contestants bake a lot more than sweets

It can be easy to assume that the show is all about sweets. When we think of baked goods, our minds jump to cakes and cookies, but The Great American Baking Show features a wide variety of baked treats. While a lot of them are sweet, there are also tons of savory baked goods featured on the show. Former contestant Stephanie Chen showcased her Chinese heritage by making dim sum beef curry puffs — far from a sweet snack!

One reviewer for The New York Times hit the nail on the head when she said of the show's creations, "You finally get a sense of what makes American home cooking so exciting: It doesn't fit too neatly into any one category." The diversity of recipes on The Great American Baking Show is a huge part of what makes the show so appealing, and why fans keep coming back for more.

This isn't the only version of the show to be marked by scandal

It's bad enough that the show was marred by scandal when the sexual harassment allegations against Johnny Iuzzini came to light, but this is not the only time the American Baking franchise has been rocked by sexual impropriety. The first incarnation of the show, The American Baking Competition, aired in 2013 with Paul Hollywood acting as co-host, just as on The Great British Bake Off. While filming the show in the US, Hollywood had an affair with his co-host Marcela Valladolid.

"I did have an affair in America with my co-judge and it was something which… it was the biggest mistake of my life, because actually I still love my wife," Hollywood told The Independent. He and his wife separated and eventually got back together, but their marriage never really recovered from the affair. Hollywood and his wife split for good at the end of 2017.

It isn't filmed in America

You'd think that a show with the word "American" in its title would be filmed on-location, right? Not necessarily. The Great American Baking Show is filmed in England, just like The Great British Bake Off and uses the same set. Contestants on the show fly to the UK for the duration of the show. This can be quite a challenge for the contestants who not only have to deal with being in a foreign country away from their loved ones, but also have to battle jet lag during the competition.

A season of the show takes a month to film, so if you're thinking of competing on The Great American Baking Show, be prepared to call jolly old England home for four weeks. Being away from home for such a long time can be a challenge, but it's also the experience of a lifetime. "I really had fun with it," former contestant JC Gregg told The Kansas City Star.

What will the show be like when it returns to the air?

The future of the show was left up in the air for a while following the scandal that rocked season three. Many fans were afraid judge Johny Iuzzini being fired from the show would mean the end of The Great American Baking Show for good, but it looks like it's definitely coming back for a fourth season. While we still aren't sure what season four of The Great American Baking Show will look like, the show's audition website said new competitions will take place in 2018.

It's a good guess that Iuzzini definitely won't be a judge on season four, but it's anyone's guess who will replace him. While there have been rumors that Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry may reunite for the new season, that has yet to be confirmed. Other than this noticeable change, season four of the show will likely be the same show that America has come to know and love. Here's hoping that the new and improved version of The Great American Baking Show will be better than ever!