From our friends at PopTonic:
We all know that British competition shows are the best. The Great British Bake-Off–or The Great British Baking Show, as it’s called in America–is one of the most relaxing, lovely TV programs I’ve ever seen. No one shouts at each other. No one ever says, “I’m not here to make friends.” The contestants help each other, and there’s a real sense that they view the competition as being not against each other but themselves.
If you’ve already watched every episode of Bake Off, then you’re in luck: HBO Max secured the rights to distribute its sister show The Great Pottery Throwdown in the US, and there’s a brand-new season just waiting for you.
Produced by Love Productions–the same folks who brought us Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee—The Great Pottery Throwdown is a competition to find the best potter in the UK.
A group of contestants from all over the UK–which includes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well as England–roll up their sleeves to take on a wide variety of challenges. As someone who has only tried making pottery once, it’s fascinating to learn about all the different techniques and possibilities.
Some of the contestants create truly breathtaking works of art… and, from time to time, pieces crack or crumble. It wouldn’t be a compelling show without a little drama, would it? Each episode, one person gets sent home while another wins a spot in the gallery showcase. At the end, the winner gets some flowers. That’s right–there’s no cash prize involved. Just the satisfaction of testing your limits and earning the respect of your peers.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Like the contestants on Bake Off, the winners and big personalities from Throwdown gain social media followers and opportunities for high-profile commissions. While there haven’t been any breakout stars on the level of Nadiya Hussein, many of the potters have started teaching or exhibiting their work in galleries.
There have been four seasons so far, with the most recent filmed during lockdown just like Bake Off. And like it’s more famous sister show, Throwdown has one consistent judge with a revolving cast of hosts, co-judges, guests, and kiln technicians.
In the first two seasons, Keith Brymer Jones was joined by potter Kate Malone as judges, with Sara Cox as the host and Richard Miller as the kiln technician. In what was surely a big mistake (huge!), the BBC cancelled the show in 2018–but Channel 4 brought it back in 2020 for more episodes.
After the two-year hiatus, only Brymer Jones and Miller returned. Sue Pryk replaced Kate Malone as a judge, while Melanie Sykes stepped up as the presenter. The producers shook things up again for the fourth season with a new host–actress and comedian Siobhan McSweeney–as well as a promotion for Richard Miller from kiln tech to co-judge. Rose Schmits took over the role as the technician.
Don’t let all the personnel changes put you off the series! It’s a great show, no matter who is involved. The most recent incarnation might be my favorite yet, especially with self-proclaimed “Trans Kiln Witch” Rose as the technician who ensures the potters’ creations are fired to perfection.
This is one of life’s great mysteries–and one of the greatest joys of watching Throwdown. When Keith Brymer Jones delivers praise to the contestants, he often starts crying. It’s the equivalent of the Paul Hollywood handshake, but without the lingering specter of toxic masculinity.
There’s something surprisingly moving about a grown man weeping over the beauty of a teapot. Check out The Great Pottery Throwdown on HBO Max and experience it for yourself.