Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Television Review: The Great British Sewing Bee

As my new-found addiction to cross-stitch gets more and more intense (seriously, I pretty much can't look at a cross-stitch kit on the Hobbycraft website without wanting to buy it), The Great British Sewing Bee seemed like a good program to watch over my last experience of an Easter holiday. And as much as sewing clothes and cross stitching are two very different things, I've found it to be an enjoyable way to kill an hour.

The eight contestants, plus hosts Patrick Grant, Claudia Winkleman and May Martin in the middle.

A good deal of the reviews I've been reading for the show liken Sewing Bee to nothing more than a rip-off of The Great British Bake Off. While the two certainly follow the same formula and the newer program may even be filler to tide us over until Bake Off starts up again, that's not a valid reason to instantly dismiss the new show on the block.

A lot of those same reviews said that Sewing Bee was indeed less worthwhile than Bake Off and frankly, I disagree. Let me explain why. The argument of those other reviewers was that the clothing judges could only inspect the items that the contestants painstakingly put under their sewing machines, whereas the confectionery reviewers can taste, touch, smell and do whatever else they want with a measly little biscuit. Their main argument is that you can't eat an item of clothing. No duh. But allow me to point out something that those people might have missed. You can't wear a slice of cake either. 

Something else that I feel I must call into question before moving on. Answer me this, people. How long does a cake last? On average, I would say a few hours. Maybe even a day or two if nobody's that hungry. Now, on the other hand, how long does an item of clothing last? Years! Now, which product is more worthy again?

Before I move on, I feel like I should clarify my position on both shows. I have watched both. In fact, I've watched more episodes of Bake Off than I have of Sewing Bee, not that that's a difficult task right now. But I find no hesitation in saying that, personally, I find Sewing Bee, to be considerably more entertaining. Bake Off is purely factual but as well as enjoying the subject matter, I find genuine enjoyment in watching eight amateur sewers duke it out. So please people, don't jump down my throat thinking that I'm making assumptions about my less-liked show. That is not the case. 

In the past, specifically in watching Strictly Come Dancing, I've found Claudia Winkleman to be somewhat of an annoyance, but here, her air of wackiness is quite fitting. As for the two hosts of Bake Off, I find them to be extremely un-emotive. They are very much background personalities, barely even reacting when one of the contestants accidentally ended up with a chocolate upside down cake on the rocks. Sorry, that should read on the floor.

Now, onto what I think of the judges. Neither pair are perfect, but Patrick Grant and May Martin are certainly preferable in my opinion. One of the sillier comments I've seen about the show criticizes the fact that both sets of judges have the same (first) initial. Patrick and May versus Paul and Mary. Ever hear of the word coincidence? I don't doubt that all four of them truly are experts in their respective crafts and know their stuff inside and out. But, in all honesty, I found Paul Hollywood to be insufferably harsh. This is not to say that Patrick and May don't point it out when the sewers screw something up, there's no doubt they do. But if they find something to be 'unwearable' they generally keep that little nugget to themselves. Don't think of this as naive, I know that you have to receive criticism to improve, but there's limits to it, and I think that Hollywood crosses that line and then some.

Next, the contestants. Since I'm starting to think this review is becoming too much like a comparison to Bake Off, I'm sticking to the contestants of Sewing Bee this time. The group of people they found to participate are enjoyably varied, my favourite in that regard being Mark, the steampunk pirate mechanic. And even though, like most viewers, I've had favourites that I've rooted for and usually had a good guess at who would be eliminated each week, I was never really happy to see any of the contestants go. Especially Tilly, Jane and Stuart. Even though I know that Jane has made a full recovery thanks to Tilly's blog, I keep wondering what illness was so bad, that it caused her to leave so suddenly. The banter between the contestants and the insight into what they do normally was interesting to me and bumped up the entertainment value, especially Sandra's little witticism's. 

As for the clothing, even though little of it is something I would like to wear, since I practically have to be bribed into wearing a dress or skirt, I can still appreciate the craftsmanship that went into every piece and why the participants chose to do what they did. Example, Ann is the oldest contestant, so her materials are rather plain or old-fashioned. And speaking of Ann, how does she manage to hang upside down in yoga? And as for Lauren, who is rather waify, chose fittingly floral fabrics for her pieces. But without a doubt, my favourite piece of clothing to come off the sewing machines, at least without having watched the final yet, is this:

I could never have thought of something that creative to do with a pocket if I thought for three hours. Thanks Stuart.

I have yet to see the final that aired tonight but I look forward to finding out who will win, although I have a good idea. One of my few criticisms for The Great British Sewing Bee is that it's just too short. Only four episodes? I need more! But with over 1,000 original applicants and having read somewhere that a second series of the competition will take place, I hope to see it return.

Again, this is just my opinion so if you disagree, don't let it get to you and don't flay me for thinking something different, please? And that's about all I have to say.