We've got good news and bad news for U.S.-based fans of The Great British Baking Show and charming British celebrities. The good news is that this year's star-studded charity edition of the series, the annual Great Celebrity Bake Off, will see huge names including James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Katherine Ryan competing in a shortened version of the beloved baking competition to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer. The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news is that not only will the Great Celebrity Bake Off not be added to Netflix, but it also won't be streamable anywhere else outside of the U.K.
It's a truly devastating turn of events for any non-U.K. resident who wanted nothing more than to watch Mr. Tumnus construct a legitimately impressive cake in the shape of a snow leopard. (Guilty!) That said, you can still take in at least a small sampling of the delightful five-episode series thanks to The Great British Baking Show's blessedly regular updates to its social media pages, which, along with all the info about the series that we've gathered below, will easily tide you over until you're ready to pick up and move to the U.K. just to gain access to Channel 4's online streaming site. Worth it!
What is the Great Celebrity Bake Off?
For four years running, The Great British Baking Show has teamed up with Stand Up to Cancer to produce a celebrity version of the long-running baking series to raise money for the charity. Each season includes five episodes, with a new set of four famous Brits competing in each episode. Past contestants have included Aisling Bea, John Lithgow, Russell Brand, James Blunt, and Tan France.
The show follows the usual Great British Baking Show format, with three challenges—a signature, technical, and showstopper—after which one of the amateur bakers is named Star Baker. The Great Celebrity Bake Off is presided over by the same slate of judges and hosts as the original show; this year, that means Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are judging, and Matt Lucas is hosting alone, since Noel Fielding was out on paternity leave at the time of filming.
Who's competing in 2021?
The most recognizable names among the 2021 contestants for those of us across the pond are probably James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley. The season's 20 total competitors will also include comedian Katherine Ryan, Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall, BBC Radio 1 presenter Nick "Grimmy" Grimshaw, YouTuber KSI, singer Anne-Marie, and Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes.
You can watch clips of their culinary adventures on The Great British Baking Show's Instagram and YouTube accounts. Please enjoy, for example, this montage of McAvoy's best moments from his episode, including an eerily spot-on impression of Gandalf—following an eerily spot-on comparison of the wise wizard to Paul Hollywood.
Now, feast your eyes on Ridley's perfectly imperfect toilet cake:
Is there really no way to watch it in the U.S.?
Yes, really. We're just as crushed as you are. Channel 4, which airs the series in the U.K., doesn't allow viewers physically outside of the U.K. to use its streaming site and, for some reason, these episodes aren't uploaded to Netflix alongside the rest of The Great British Baking Show, most likely because of agreements with Stand Up to Cancer and any other sponsors.
Your best option is to figure out how to use a VPN to trick your computer into thinking you're in the U.K.—a bit out of my pay grade, but I believe in you—then promptly sign up for a Channel 4 streaming account. Or, you know, you could still always just pack up and move to the U.K., then promptly sign up for a Channel 4 streaming account, which wouldn't be a drastic measure at all. Other viable options include finding a pen pal in the U.K. who will FaceTime you in to their Great Celebrity Bake Off viewing parties, and/or constantly refreshing the series' social media feeds and using the posts to attempt to piece together the events of each episode yourself.
Finally, if you just can't get over your wish to see famous people competing on The Great British Baking Show with hilariously endearing results—and understandably so—there is a single starry special available on Netflix in the U.S. The 2020 installment of the series' annual holiday special included a New Year's-themed episode with the cast of Derry Girls: Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Dylan Llewellyn, Siobhán McSweeney, and Nicola Coughlan, who you'll also recognize from Bridgerton.
As you can see, it's a true delight, and just might be the thing to make up for the Great Celebrity Bake Off-shaped hole in your heart.