Welcome back to Friday afternoon. I’ve got recommendations for a few things to watch this weekend: a pair of recent Netflix arrivals, and an especially springlike episode of a food TV standby. Here’s what to put in your queue:
A trippy comedy starring two bird BFFs
The world of Netflix’s new animated series Tuca & Bertie looks like a hybrid of hipster Los Angeles, Downtown Manhattan, and an Ayahuasca trip. It’s a place where anthropomorphized jungle creatures ride giant snake-trains through a bustling, candy-colored metropolis. Thankfully, even in its most outlandish moments, the show’s wild visual style is counterbalanced by a relationship that feels drawn from real life.
The show focuses on a scheming toucan named Tuca (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) and her introverted best friend Bertie (Ali Wong). They used to be roommates, but when Bertie decided to let her boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun) move in, Tuca found another flat in the same building. The apartment switch-up changes their day-to-day routines, but Tuca and Bertie remain committed to their friendship. A recovering alcoholic, Touca has trouble finding her groove in the dating scene, while Bertie quickly finds out that living with her boyfriend isn’t quite as exciting as she might have hoped. Wong’s character also feels undervalued in her job at the media company Conde Nest, a situation that’s made even worse when she gets sexually harassed by one of her jock-y male colleagues.
Tuca and Bertie help each other navigate these tough situations as best they can, oftentimes by cooking up harebrained schemes. In the case of Bertie’s work drama, Tuca gets a job as a Conde Nest temp and not only sticks up for her pal in meetings (“Woo, woo: that’s the alarm that sounds when no women have spoken out loud in three minutes”) but also helps launch a sexual harassment seminar where they confront Bertie’s idiot co-worker about his inappropriate comments.
This mixture of broad cartoon animal comedy and nuanced explorations of human anxiety is the calling card of creator Lisa Hanawalt, the celebrated indie comic artist who also worked on BoJack Horseman. And like that other Netflix series, Tuca & Bertie is also full of oddball food jokes. One running gag involves Tuca randomly turning desk drawers into mini-fridges by adding ice packs and cold cuts, and the pilot features Bertie entering a croissant bake-off with a hot shot baker who invented a novelty treat called the Crunt. That scene contains one of my favorite jokes in the entire first season: a list of ridiculous “chef code” rules, like “any liquid in a bowl can be sold as a soup” and “make vegetables hot and keep fruit cold.”
Wong and Haddish have just the right energy to bring these brassy birds to life, and the cast is rounded out by a who’s who of cool-kid comedians, including Nicole Byer playing an obnoxious office worker and Awkafina voicing Bertie’s left breast. All 10 episodes of Tuca & Bertie Season 1 are now streaming on Netflix.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Knock Down the House
Watch it on: Netflix
The gist: This documentary about four women who challenged incumbents in the 2018 midterm election offers a fascinating look at grassroots political campaigns. The star of the films is undoubtedly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is shown campaigning for the Democratic primary while working as a bartender at a Manhattan taqueria. “People don’t see waitresses as having a ‘real job,’ but my experience in hospitality has prepared me so well for this race,” she says early in the film. “I’m used to being on my feet 18 hours a day. I’m used to receiving a lot of heat. I’m used to people trying to make me feel bad.” While the other three politicians featured in the film — Missouri’s Cori Bush, Virginia’s Paula Jean Swearengin, and Nevada’s Amy Vilela — ultimately don’t win their primaries, their stories are equally inspiring and captivating.
Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro, “Farm Stand”
The gist: If you’re dreaming of hosting a splashy get-together this spring or summer, you might want to take this new episode of Ina Garten’s Food Network show for a spin. It presents a Hamptons farm-to-table fantasy like only Ina could conjure, complete with fresh corn pancakes, stuffed zucchini, a Tuscan bread salad, and spice-encrusted rack of lamb. In between kitchen segments, Ina visits her friends at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett and Pike Farm in Sagaponack. And if you’re a newcomer to the Cult of Ina, this is particularly good introduction to her enviable world.
In other entertainment news…
- I was happy to see the Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and Parts Unknown teams take home James Beard Awards last Friday, and I was majorly stoked to see Marcus Samuelsson, host of Eater’s collaboration with PBS No Passport Required, win big as well.
- And speaking of the JBFAs, in a new Pellegrino-sponsored video, Queer Eye style guru Tan France helps this year’s James Beard Awards Rising Star nominees get dressed for the big event.
- The Obamas and one of the creators of Drunk History are working on a new Netflix kids’ food show called Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents.
- Burger King is the latest brand to use meme-able depression to sell you junk food.
- Gotta love Pete Davidson for showing up to an Avengers screening with $400 worth of McDonald’s for his fellow moviegoers.
- Restaurant soap opera Sweetbitter is coming back to Starz this summer.
- Fresh off his controversial Oscars Best Picture win for Green Book, Peter Farrelly is going to direct a drama about a Vietnam War beer run.
- And finally: Did you hear that David Chang, Chrissy Teigen, and Eater are going to be making food shows for Hulu? Brace.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you plan on watching the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, you might want to consider making a classic mint julep using this recipe.