There are three big changes viewers will notice when they tune in to The Great Canadian Baking Show on CBC this Wednesday night.
Gone is judge Rochelle Adonis, replaced by Kyla Kennaley. And co-hosts Dan Levy and Julia Chan have been swapped out in favour of Aurora Browne and Carolyn Taylor. Browne and Taylor are also, as legions of fans already know, the writers, stars and executive producers of Baroness von Sketch Show, which returns this Tuesday night to CBC.
And while I will miss Levy and Chan’s roles on Baking Show, I was immediately smitten by Browne and Taylor’s witty cold opening and their natural rapport with the 10 new contestants.
We spoke to Browne ahead of both programs’ debut.
How did yourself and Carolyn Taylor end up hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show in the first place?
Aurora Browne: The Great Canadian Baking Show approached us, at the beginning of this year. Carolyn and I have known each other for a very long time, obviously. Long before Baroness, even. It worked out in our schedule to be able to do it with only minimal overlap. Why not? It’s such a fun show. It’s fun and lovely and to be honest, being paid to taste things is like a dream come true. I don’t think that was difficult for either of us.
We actually spoofed it on Baroness. There’s a scene in the third season with Jen and Meredith. The patient is talking about her existential angst and how she can’t let go of any of her anxiety. The psychiatrist advises her to watch a gentle British baking show. We had a little, 10-second insert. Of course, it takes two hours to film, so Carolyn was like the Mary Berry character and I was a contestant. On the day that we were doing that, we were saying, ‘Oh gosh, I could do that all day,’ just talking about food and looking at food.
Was what you did as hosts scripted?
AB: They do have a very talented writer Elvira Kurt who has been our friend for a long time. She has actually worked on Baroness as well. A bit of the show is scripted. We don’t come up with all those puns on our own, that’s the job of a talented person. We were doing the cold opens of the show. That kind of stuff is scripted. Also sometimes, to be totally honest, there is so much technical stuff for some of the baking things, especially the French patisserie, I really needed that in the script. It’s like texty sci-fi shows you are remembering all these things. Thank goodness for the script on those parts, but the rest of it is just us interacting with the bakers. I think the best training that Carolyn and I could have had for the show is just attending a bunch of parties because it’s a party in a way.
Starting off with 10 people and then fewer as weeks progress you just have to be comfortable going in and chatting to them, it’s just like that part in the party where you wander into the kitchen and the host is trying to get something done or trying to get something in the oven and you ask them questions. Except here on the show they must answer our questions.
They were very easy to get to know, they were just such lovely, lovely people. They are in the middle of this very stressful situation with cameras in their faces and we were just there to encourage them and Carolyn and I didn’t find it hard at all. We were just encouraging them to do what they loved and to sometimes have a good laugh with them, and occasionally commiserate with them if they were having a stressful moment, which of course happens.
Let’s switch things up and let’s talk about season four of Baroness von Sketch Show. What was it like having Jennifer Whalen as the showrunner this season?
AB: Jen Whalen is exceptional. I mean it’s a massive job because you’re the one person who goes between all the departments. All four of us worked very closely on the creative and talking with each other about everything. Jen Whalen, I see her being the CEO of something, before very long. But we also have been doing this for several years now, so we have how we handle the editing and that’s in place, how we work out the sketches that are in place. I’m always just like thankful and in awe of Carolyn and Jennifer being showrunners and how willing they are to just always take those calls and emails. I personally need a little bit of time at the end of the day where I just won’t pick up the phone. I need to not answer emails. I’m always very grateful that those two have been willing to helm such a busy, busy show because we are all so involved.
But they are both fantastic at it and I hope someday that Jen Whalen is captaining the starship and I get to be her XO, I would happily be her second in command for anything.
There are some great sketches in the first episode. Binge-watching television and translating that into kids’ years. Tony Nappo in the sketch where he uses his kind words to make women smile. The blood pressure cuff. All great relatable stuff. The end credits featured a large group of writers and story editors.
AB: We have a structure that really allows us to welcome in voices and ideas even for a short amount of time because we have a core group of four of us are always there. Then we have some staff writers who are with us all the way through. For Season 4 we had Jen Goodhue who has been with us for every season. We had Monica Heisey in and then Allison Hogg, who had also written for us before. Then with the other people sometimes they will only come in for say three days or four days. That fresh set of eyes is really invaluable and it makes for a really fun room. I don’t think there was one person that came in that one of us didn’t know already.
It’s a pretty joyous thing. Even though it’s a large group it was manageable and it just means that you have these really funny, really talented people who are really thoughtful and interested in the world and are really ready to sit and roll around an idea to get at what’s the essence of this, what’s the funniest take we can take on it. And we were so happy always to be able to offer a paycheque at the very least to our talented colleagues who live and work in this city and the country.
We are very happy to be able to make this show where we live, and other people can too.
Baroness von Sketch Show airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.
The Great Canadian Baking Show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.