Welcome back to Friday, the day of the week that feels like finding a regular-sized candy bar in a loot bag full of fun-sized treats. We’re definitely cruising through a period of peak fall TV right now. Here are notes on three shows to check out, plus a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news.
Christine McConnell’s Halloween extravaganza
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, a new six-part series on Netflix, is one of the strangest food shows of the year, and one of the most beguiling. If you’re someone who likes crafting, baking, old monster movies, or the early works of Tim Burton — or some combination of all those things — there’s a good chance this show will be right up your alley.
In the show, Instagram star and bona fide Halloween legend Christine McConnell plays a version of herself, living a grand and very carefully art=directed life in a giant mansion at the top of a hill. A friendly tarantula wakes her up in the morning, and then, after consulting with her stylist — a ghostly mirror image played by Dita Von Teese — she heads down to the kitchen to entertain her houseguests Edgar (a wolfman), Rose (a sentient stuffed raccoon), and Rankle (a mummy cat). Visitors appear at her door from time to time, and the monsters of the house hatch a few mischievous plans, but most of the show is just Christine showing her creature friends how to make insanely detailed Halloween treats.
The kitchen scenes are the real lynchpin of the show. Using all sorts of odd little tools, McConnell turns fairly common baking ingredients into small edible masterpieces. My favorite sequences are the tutorials about how to make wooly wolf claw doughnuts, chocolate-filled bones, and shortbread cookie ouija boards. Throughout the show, the host provides useful info about how to recreate these treats at home, while being frank about the skill level required. “I’m not going to sugar coat it,” McConnell says in the middle of building a haunted house cake. “This is tedious and time consuming. But once you get it to this stage, it begins to turn into something you’re very, very proud of, and excited to share with people.”
As far as the monsters are concerned, Rankle (voiced by Michael Oosterom) steals the show with his weird asides about being an ancient cat deity who can “control time and space.” When McConnell serves up a coffee cake shaped like a gilded Victorian urn, for example, Rankle decides to tell his friends, “My followers used to make little replicas of me out of the purest gold — they would pray to them, most fervently.”
Despite the macabre theme and occasional ribald innuendo from the creatures, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is an exceedingly good-natured show. The toddler in my household found the monsters a bit too scary, but my guess is that this is a perfect show to watch with kids ages 8 to 12. It’s also a fine thing to put on TV if you’re throwing a Halloween party or are planning any elaborate holiday-themed baking projects between now and the end of next week.
All six episodes are now available to stream on Netflix.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Good Eats: Reloaded, “Steak Your Claim: The Reload”
The gist: The remixed version of Alton Brown’s Food Network classic feels like a great lost DVD extra, wherein Brown pauses the action and pops on screen to give you facts about filming the show, as well as corrections and fresh tips. True to his promise, roughly half of the running time is footage of 2018 Alton cooking new and improved versions of old recipes.
On paper, this might sound like a self-indulgent excursion, but the finished product is actually really fun to watch and completely in keeping with the nerdy spirit of the show. Good Eats: Reloaded will undoubtedly be a treat for fans who have been watching since 1999, but it also works as an introduction to viewers who have never checked out Brown’s unique brand of food science theatrics before.
New episodes of Good Eats: Reloaded are airing on Monday nights at 9 p.m. throughout the fall.
Parts Unknown, “Bourdain’s Impact”
The gist: With just a few episodes left before the series finale, CNN aired a special Parts Unknown episode on Sunday about Anthony Bourdain’s impact on the world, featuring clips from the previous 11 seasons of the show and interviews with writers and the people he worked with over the years.
Bourdain’s legacy was covered fairly extensively by publications all over the world when he died over the summer, but it’s still interesting to see how he changed the food TV game in the context of Parts Unknown, and how he grew as a host and journalist while filming the show. “He was not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions, go to uncomfortable places, poke at uncomfortable scabs,” writer Andy Greenwald remarks in the special. “That’s kind of amazing, to, as you grow more comfortable in station, to become more eager to engage in uncomfortable truths and uncomfortable situations and uncomfortable questions.”
This week’s episode will focus on Central Texas, next week’s installment will cover the Lower East Side, and then the show will end with another, more broadly focused retrospective on Bourdain’s life and work.
In other entertainment news…
- The Final Table, a new culinary competition featuring acclaimed chefs from around the world, will premiere on Netflix on Tuesday, November 20 — two days before Thanksgiving. Judging by the trailer, this might be like Top Chef on steroids.
- Viceland pissed off one of the network’s biggest stars, Action Bronson, by comparing him to Salt Bae on Twitter this week. The rapper/chef tweeted, “I’ll take my talents elsewhere because you sure don’t appreciate what I’ve done for you.” A Viceland spokesperson declined to comment, but if the tweets are to be believed (and this isn’t just a big publicity stunt) Bronson may indeed by severing ties with the media company that made him a viral star.
- Tiffany Haddish, the star of Night School and many other popular comedies, likens her career to “a delicious roasted chicken.”
- Here’s writer Malcolm Harris on the connection between Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and Marxism.
- The Kentucky-themed Top Chef Season 16 will premiere on Bravo on December 6.
- Ina Garten says she doesn’t drink wine while cooking because she’s “terrible drunk.”
- This ad about how Ted Cruz likes White Castle more than Whataburger is easily Richard Linklater’s greatest work since Boyhood.
- And finally, in addition to the reboot of Good Eats, Alton Brown is also working on holiday spectacular, which he hopes to take on the road in fall 2019.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something spicy to enjoy while you watch all that TV, consider checking out this recipe for chicken tinga tostadas from Nopalito in San Francisco.