Why Can’t I Stream ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ in the United States?
The Great British Baking Show has inspired imitators, home bakers, and couch potatoes the world over, but nowhere is the show’s influence more keenly felt than with its sister shows, Love Productions’s The Great Pottery Throwdown and The Great British Sewing Bee. While the former long floated around YouTube in bootleg form before landing in HBO Max‘s library of originals, The Great British Sewing Bee remains an enigma to stateside Anglophiles. You can only learn of it by reading Wikipedia pages or reading blog posts from British fans. (I only learned of its existence because one of my favorite home sewing communities does pattern breakdowns!)
So why is The Great British Sewing Bee so impossible to watch in the United States? Is it because of a cultural disconnect? Music rights issues? Or is something more sinister afoot? Why can’t I stream The Great British Sewing Bee, folks?!?
The Great British Sewing Bee first premiered in 2013 in the UK and just wrapped its seventh season this year. The series is currently hosted by comedian Joe Lycett (who feels like what would happen if a Mad Scientist combined Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas into one man’s body, in the best way possible) and is judged by Saville Row icon Patrick Grant and Bridget Jones’s Diary and Trainspotting costume designer Esme Young. Much like The Great British Baking Show, The Great British Sewing Bee pits amateurs against each other in a series of three challenges per week. In the first round, all sewers have to tackle the same pattern. The second round usually asks them to upcycle something wearable from thrift store duds. Finally, the sewers get to show off their own interpretation on a garment with help from a live model.
Essentially, it’s Project Runway meets the rustic charm of The Great British Baking Show. And if, like me, you’re flagging from some Bake Off fatigue, The Great British Sewing Bee sounds novel enough to make it to your must-binge queue. The problem? How is a self-respecting American supposed to watch The Great British Sewing Bee? It’s…nowhere...legal.
Why could this be? How is it that the third of three Bake Off-esque shows made by Love Productions still remains behind the VPN iron curtain? I have three theories.
One, no American streamer wants to pick it up because Americans don’t have the same thirst for home-sewing as the Brits do. It’s true that most home sewers in the States are cosplayers, history bounders, wannabe designers, and/or close to Death’s eternal embrace. But Americans love crafting, so I don’t know. I’m also noticing a revival of home sewing amongst influencers so I don’t think that is the problem.Second, given that I may or may not have found a way to watch this show, I can impart that The Great British Sewing Bee uses pop music as its soundtrack. The cost of the music rights might be the issue. However, that also seems weird because the soundtrack could be easily replaced. It’s not Glee, you know?
Finally, I’ve noticed that when The Foldline vlogs about the show, they make a note they can’t even show screenshots of garments on the show because they will face litigation. This is weird only because that same sewing community site frequently screengrabs costumes from mainstream films and shows to help folks locate the proper pattern. Meaning there’s something about The Great British Sewing Bee that is extra litigious than its sibling shows. The only thing I can come up with? Britain might have different rules about clothing as pertains to intellectual property?!?
Whatever it is keeping The Great British Sewing Bee off our shores, I would like for it to stop. Someone please take out that checkbook and make a deal for The Great British Sewing Bee to stream in the States.