Of all the skill-based competition shows, the one that hits the perfect sweet spot for me is The Great Pottery Throwdown. Though it (like The American Meat in a Flaming Pit thing that I’ve gone on about before) models itself almost to the letter on The Great British Baking Show, it has a slight advantage because the viewer can see the results in a way that they cannot taste the results of the baking contest. In a way, The Great Pottery Throwdown allows me to be a judge in a way that The Great British Baking Show does not (FYI, the Netflix glassblowing series Blown Away does this too, and I recommend that as well).
And it’s super-duper heavy on the technical aspects of all aspects of pottery-making: throwing, handbuilding, slip-casting, drying, firing, glazing. I mean: I’m practically a millimeter (sorry, millimetre) away from being able to make a tea set for twenty in my oven.
It’s been a bit of a trick in the past to hunt the show down; I caught up with it in bits and pieces via YouTube in the early days of the pandemic, not having access to any of the five hundred British-specific streaming services now available to U.S.-based viewers (Britbox! Acorn! Tally Ho! I Say! Bumbershoot! I can’t keep up).
But here’s some exciting news! All four of its seasons (including the brand new one, filmed during the pandemic) are now available on HBO Max. And I’m delighted to tell you that I think the new season is the best yet; there’s been some host and judge and kilnmaster (or whatever it’s called) shuffling, but I think they’ve got the chemistry of all that just right now.
If you’re familiar with the show already, don’t worry—Keith the judge still cries every five seconds and you still get the Perilous Raku Challenge and the Try Not to Make a Leaky Fountain Challenge and the No One’s Fingers Fit Through Those Teacup Handles Challenge, just like in past seasons.
I did notice the absence of the usual weird Make a Toilet challenge (seriously, that’s a thing and be prepared because the judges sit on it), but we do get a delightful episode where two different contestants make a life-size bust of Dame Shirley Bassey, so that just about evens things out in the unusual department, I’d say.