The Great British Bake Off 2017: is the Paul Hollywood Handshake losing its value?

Yan, Steven and Stacey all got the Hollywood Handshake in the Signature Challenge during Pudding Week – and it all feels a bit too much...

Paul Hollywood handshake

The Great British Bake Off is experiencing Hollywood Handshake inflation.

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Not that Paul Hollywood’s hand-shaking arm has expanded in size after super-sugary Caramel Week – and nor has he hit the gym to bulk up his biceps.

Instead, we’re talking about the ridiculous number of approving handshakes now awarded to promising bakers.

Pudding Week features not one, not two, but THREE Hollywood Handshakes. In the space of five minutes, Yan, Steven and Stacey all had their hands grasped and firmly pumped up and down.

“Three handshakes. That’s a personal best for you,” says Noel Fielding.

It may be a personal best – but is it for the best?

Now, the Hollywood Handshake used to be an extremely rare thing. That’s what gave it its power.

A few times a year, Paul would extend his right arm towards a disbelieving baker for this gesture of absolute approval. They’d be so pleased they would do a little dance around the garden or maybe cry actual tears. 

hollywood handshake

Tamal Ray, who received a headline-making Hollywood Handshake in 2015, said he would “never forget” the moment. (At the time, the Bake Off described it as “rarer than a unicorn riding a flying pig”.) Other notable recipients include Nadiya Hussain, Selasi Gbormittah and Paul Jagger.

Once, Jane Beedle created something that spoke to Paul’s stomach so strongly, he reached forwards with two hands and gave her a double handshake. It made headlines.

But now? The Hollywood Handshake has been devalued. Paul is shaking hands all over the place. Take a look back at the first episode this year: he doled out two of the coveted handshakes in the signature challenge alone.

What’s going on here? We have two theories.

One is that the baking has simply got better: these amateurs are the cream of the crop, operating at a much higher level than previous years’ contestants.

As The Great British Bake Off churns out finalists and winners who immediately sign lucrative cookbook contracts, are the stakes becoming higher? Are the contestants upping their game, training for years to be in with a shot at the baking big time?

The Great British Bake Off's Steven makes his Showstopper
The Great British Bake Off’s Steven makes his Showstopper (Channel 4)

The other theory is that Paul has gone soft. Perhaps, having been clobbered by fans for sticking with the show on Channel 4 while Mary Berry and Mel & Sue quit, he simply wants to be liked. He doesn’t want to be the big meanie in the tent; he’d much rather give out the gold stars.

Yan, Steven and Stacey were of course delighted to each get their own handshake. But what next? If Paul carries on this way and the Hollywood Handshake loses its value, he’ll have to invent new ways to express extreme approval.

The Hollywood Happy-fist-bump? The Hollywood How-do-you-do? The Hollywood Hug? It’s going to get awkward.

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The Great British Bake Off continues on Tuesdays at 8pm on Channel 4