It’s finals season, and that means stress levels have begun to rise, libraries have extended their hours and the anticipation for summer looms stronger than ever. However, there is one thing to get us through these last daunting weeks of the school year: “The Great Pottery Throw Down.”
Cousin of the “The Great British Baking Show” and made by the same creators, “The Great Pottery Throw Down” is a similarly charming and wholesome watch. Set in Stoke, England, 12 amateur potters are selected to compete for the title of best potter. Judged by potter Keith Brymer Jones and ceramics expert Rich Miller, each week participants compete in two challenges where one potter-of-the-week is crowned, and one contestant is sent home. This season, actress Ellie Taylor (“Ted Lasso”) fills in for regular host Siobhan McSweeney.
In each episode, participants compete in one long challenge and one speed challenge. In the longer challenge, they are tasked with creating a complicated work of pottery or a set of many pieces. Their pieces then go into the kiln. While they are fired, competitors take on the second quick challenge of the day, in which they are tested on particular skills by creating simpler designs in less time. Perhaps one of the most dramatic and entertaining parts of the show is the reveal of the pottery after it is taken out of the kiln. An assistant is responsible for taking the pieces out and carefully hiding them under a piece of cloth at each work desk, so the competitors don’t know if their pieces survived until they remove the cloth.
Unlike some other reality competition shows that feature competing partnerships (think Netflix’s “Sugar Rush” or Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”), only to have an entirely new cast of competitors each episode, “The Great Pottery Throw Down” keeps one consistent cast throughout the season. This gives viewers greater insight into each member, lending the show an intimate feel.
What further distinguishes the show from others is the lack of a cash prize; participants simply compete to do the best they can, the only reward being an arbitrary title and bragging rights. The lack of a grand prize leads to more endearing relationships between cast members and judges and creates a space for people to share their love for their favorite hobby. Participants are constantly chatting and laughing with each other between challenges, something that isn’t seen very much in many American competition shows.
This warm spirit is carried through in the panel of judges. While a show like “Master Chef,” for example, is perhaps best known for Gordon Ramsay’s rage, “The Great Pottery Throw Down” features kinder, while still knowledgeable, judges. In fact, Jones’s kind nature and love for pottery were clearly expressed when he cried — multiple times — after seeing one woman’s pottery, marveling at the determination and care the contestants put into each challenge.
The panel of judges and unique participants create a truly wholesome experience, which is much appreciated by those of us trying to escape the stress of these final few weeks. Overall, “The Great Pottery Throw Down” is a great show to warm your heart amid a hectic end of the school year.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at email@example.com.