Depending on your perspective, the Food Network either has a remarkable ability to wring every possible permutation of a successful series, or a depressing lack of originality when it comes to new ideas. Regardless of your attitude about their programming, it's almost a given that any popular series will spawn at least one or two quasi-spinoffs. So in the spirit of "Cooks Vs. Cons," it's time for "Bakers Vs. Fakers."
If you're familiar with "Cooks Vs. Cons," then you're already familiar with the concept for "Bakers Vs. Fakers." Four contestants - two pros and two amateurs - face off against each other in two rounds of cooking. The judges don't know which of the contestants are pros and ultimately winnow down the field based entirely on the completed dishes. If a pro wins the episode, they take home $10,000. If an amateur wins, they win $15,000.
"Cooks Vs. Cons" is a mildly entertaining concept, but thanks to host Geoffrey Zakarian, it has a breezy charm that makes it a nice distraction. It's not a great show and I don't care whether or not I watch every episode. But it's a great drive-by TV show. If I stumble across it while flipping through the channels, there's a decent chance I'll watch it for awhile.
"Bakers Vs. Fakers" has enlisted "The Great British Bake-Off" judge Paul Hollywood as the host and that's the first problem with the show. As a host, he doesn't much to do other than introduce the rounds and keep things moving smoothly. He doesn't get to offer up any opinions, which is presumably the primary reason most shows would hire him.
Episode one features Buddy Valastro and Damaris Phillips as judges and they both do a fine job. But ultimately, the format doesn't lend itself as well to baking as it does for just straight-forward cooking. So we're left with a show that often feels like a pale reflection of an already marginal format.
I'm sure that there are plenty of baking fans who will enjoy "Bakers Vs. Fakers" and will think the show is delightful hoot. I'm okay if I never watch the show again. Which I suspect will be the reaction of most viewers hoping to be entertained by something a bit new or distracting.