SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, Dec. 13, ABC decided to pull the third season of “The Great American Baking Show” after sexual harassment allegations against judge Johnny Iuzzini surfaced.
Last month, four former employees who worked for Iuzzini from 2009 to 2011 made sexual harassment allegations against him — prior to the airing of “The Great American Baking Show” on Dec. 7 — according to the media company Mic.
But additional claims emerged after this original report, with harassment allegations against Iuzzini dating back to as early as 2004. ABC’s decision to pull the show’s remaining episodes came after this report published by Mic on Dec. 12.
“The Great American Baking Show” was scheduled to run for three weeks, with two episodes airing each Thursday. At the time of the Dec. 12 report, only the first two episodes had aired, and Thursday, Dec. 21, was the scheduled date for the season’s finale.
Highland native Bryan McKinnon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was one of the 10 bakers featured on the show’s first two episodes this season. Earlier this week, McKinnon shared with the Deseret News her thoughts about ABC’s decision to pull “The Great American Baking Show.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Deseret News: When did you find out about the show’s cancellation?
Bryan McKinnon: Some of the producers from Love Productions started calling us because they wanted us to hear from them rather than read it online. It was super nice of them to do that. I got the call (Wednesday evening).
It’s sad, but it’s not just sad for us — it’s sad for everyone who put so much into it. One of the bakers got a call from a producer who said, "It’s just such a shame because this is some of my best work." She put so much time and energy into cutting it and making it beautiful, and it doesn’t get seen. It’s not just my baking that’s not being shown — it’s the talented people behind the camera and the story producers who ask the probing questions. It’s a work of art that just never sees the public eye and it’s so strange because the allegations (against Iuzzini) came out before they even started airing the show, so it was strange the way they did it, I think.
DN: Will fans of the show get to find out who won?
BM: Last I heard, they were planning on announcing the winner on Thursday — the same day they would’ve aired the (finale). That’s the last I heard, and that could change. But what’s also I think so disrespectful is that ABC has not contacted us at all. And I think they should apologize to us. It just seems like the normal thing to do. Last I heard, we are not going to see the rest of it at all. It’s all so sad and disappointing.
DN: Did the show’s cancellation take away from your experience?
BM: I’ve thought about it a lot. They can’t take away what I did and what happened, but a huge part of (being on the show) for me was showing my kids that I can do hard things and showing my friends and family that very special experience I had. So in that way, it totally takes away from that part of my experience.
They can’t take away the memories and what I learned about myself, because that’s very important to me. But it almost feels like (canceling the show) diminishes something for me. This is a very irrational feeling, I know it is, so I know I’ll get over it soon, but to me it’s like I put my heart and soul into what I did. I really, really put everything I had into it, and so when they decided to pull it and not complete the project we set off to do, it almost feels like they are diminishing my experience, like what we did wasn’t good enough to take to TV — even though I know that’s not true.
DN: Why do you think ABC responded by pulling the show?
BM: It’s such a fine line (to criticize) the reasons they pulled the show. You don’t want to stand up and say, "You did wrong," because they’re trying to support people who are coming out about sexual harassment. It’s crazy how much of this is going on in our world right now. But I feel like pulling the show only made more victims. Not necessarily of sexual harassment, but I feel like we’re victims of (ABC) pulling the show. Who does it really hurt but us?
The other interesting thing is that people are coming out about (sexual harassment), and it’s so good because people should feel safe in their work environment — I firmly believe that, of course. But these allegations (against Iuzzini) are from (several) years ago. So what if he’s a changed person? What if he’s been working really hard to be a different person? So where is there room for him to be forgiven? I feel sad for him, too, because we don’t know until we’re in someone’s shoes what their life is like, and so he very well could be an extremely good person who for all we know has paid for what he’s done, so that’s the sad part to me, too. It didn’t seem like the right move to me. I mean, I’m obviously very biased, but it seemed a really strange move to pull (the show) It was just too late to do something like that. Two weeks left, they should’ve just let it air. (But) at least we got to see one episode. I’m just counting that as a blessing.
DN: When you were on the show, did you have any suspicions about Iuzzini?
BM: I didn’t know about (the allegations) before I got on the show. We just knew about it before the show started airing. But if you were to have asked me, I will even tell you now, (Iuzzini) is such a nice guy. After the camera stopped rolling, he would come to our group and make sure we understood their criticism, and if we had any questions, he was willing to stick around and answer any questions we had. Even one week — the tent was always really cold 'cause we’re essentially outside — and while we were waiting for something, he came out from the back kitchen with a warm plate of cookies he had just baked for us. He seems like a really good, nice guy.
DN: Has your faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped you through this process?
BM: Definitely. I feel like I can see the bigger picture. I just feel like in our faith, that’s a really big way we live our lives is because of the perspective we have of the bigger picture — that this is just a portion of what we’re doing. And so I think that’s really helped me. Because a lot of people could’ve seen this as a career change or (something that) would really change their lives, and it totally could have, which is so sad that it got pulled from them. The bigger picture of how I see my life, that this isn’t just it for me, has really helped me.
DN: Did you ever talk about your faith on the show with Iuzzini?
BM: No, but one of the story producers, she got to be one of my really good friends, and she really encouraged me to talk about (my faith), so it was super nice. She said, "I’m really glad that you say these things because I was raised Catholic, but I haven’t been to church in so long and it makes me want to explore that again and see what religion could do in my life." That was so sweet of her to say that, to see a positive and take my word for it that it’s my religion (that makes me happy).
DN: Is there a message that you want to share with viewers and fans of the show?
BM: (In our previous interview), we talked a lot about having an identity past being a mom, and it was a really interesting shift for me. I talked to my husband and I said, "This is what I have to look forward to." I felt like I was going to be able to do a little bit of something with my baking because my name would be out there, that I could carry this hobby further. So it made me pause when it got pulled, I’m like, "Well, there it goes, now I’m just a mom again." But I reminded myself — no! A huge portion of what I learned from that show is that that’s not the case. Yes, it’s a bummer that the show got pulled, but that doesn’t take my opportunity away to do something else. So it was a cool reminder of the big lesson I learned.
The other big thing for me, especially near the end of the show, was, first of all, what people think of me is not who I am. And I’ve struggled with that my whole life, especially week after week with being judged and being criticized for what I tried my best at. I had to really remember that my identity and what I think about myself is not dictated by what people think of me. It’s only what value I put on myself. So that was huge for me, and I really learned that through trusting in God.