Hot in the kitchen: <i>The Great Australian Bake Off</i> co-host Anna Gare helps Nancy, a contestant, after she burnt herself during filming.

Hot in the kitchen: The Great Australian Bake Off co-host Anna Gare helps Nancy, a contestant, after she burnt herself during filming.

Hello, my name is Craig, and I like The Great Australian Bake Off. Channel Nine's new reality cooking series - which appeared to be an opportunistic gap-filler in the network's schedule akin to the disastrous Celebrity Splash earlier this year on Channel Seven - is bright, entertaining and uncomplicated. It thankfully plays like an antidote to the strain of overwrought reality blockbusters.

The show, which takes amateur bakers through their paces on pies, cakes and sundry sweets, does not feature anyone on a journey. No one's life will be changed by the winner's prize (a kitchen makeover and a baker's retreat holiday) and there are no cookbooks to be ghosted for the winner.

The show's key ingredient is self-raising humility.

Frankly, one of the most attractive things about The Great Australian Bake Off is that it airs on Tuesday night at 8pm, directly after The Block Sky High, and the contrast could not be greater. Nine's established hit has been screening for nine months - sorry, weeks - now, and it is crawling towards the auction finale with an ever greater focus on personal spats and stage-managed sequences.

All of last week's episodes, where the contestants were working on renovating their building's communal spaces, featured an excruciating retread of complaints and petty disagreements being dissected. The contestants, to be fair, look exhausted and uninterested and you can't blame them: there are dairy cows that have been milked less than this season of The Block.

The Great Australian Bake Off, which drew a healthy metropolitan audience of about 1.1 million viewers for its debut screening, could well squeeze an entire season into the time it takes to get The Block's foyer done.

With just 10 contestants beginning and one departing weekly, it's a welcome return to brevity as reality television wallows in its excessive phase.

You could easily label it ''MasterChef: Treats'', and that would mesh with the show's self-deprecating sense of humour. Vivacious co-host Anna Gare is a proven television cook, having served on The Best in Australia and Junior MasterChef, but actor Shane Jacobson's qualifications are nothing more than an appreciation of what's being prepared and the ability to make the necessary segment links amusing.

Jacobson made a point of getting the ''can't have your cake and eat it too'' line out early on with a self-aware delivery, literally adding that it was done, and his presence is a reminder that while expertise in a show's field is one thing, there's something to be said with being dexterously comfortable on camera.

The contestants have been well cast, and the first instinct of the editing is to focus on their struggles with the tasks set, which can move from delivering their take on a familiar baked good to dealing with a difficult recipe.

One contestant complained of ''piping nerves'', the hands of others shook, and there were some tears, but the crying cook was embarrassed and turned around instead of sitting down to explain on camera how much winning means.

The show's best asset may well be the two expert judges, Dan Lepard and Kerry Vincent, who are a study in contrasts used to create an informative dynamic. The former is enthusiastic, friendly and so deeply committed to baked goods that he sometimes slips into character and remembers how it was to be a child excited about an amazing prawn in your seafood pie.

Vincent, who is so icily formidable she makes Julie Bishop look like Magda Szubanski, sees baking as a form of assertive self-discipline. ''You need to measure, you need to be precise,'' she declares - and while a boxer, Steve, declared the show could not compare with getting punched in the face, Vincent knocked him out in the first episode for his ''cake wreck''.

Lepard and Vincent are the good cop, really scary cop of The Great Australian Bake Off's pastel-coloured kitchen, but when the crimes are a tart with soggy pastry or a lemon-meringue pie that's been sketchily patched after springing a leak, there's little to do except enjoy what eventuates.

Hopefully this is the start of a reality-television trend: the food is rich, but the show is slimming.

DailyStyle