Welcome back to Eat, Drink, Watch. I’ve got some notes on a highly anticipated new show that unfortunately just doesn’t work, plus a round-up of the week’s food-related entertainment news. Let’s dive in, shall we?
What went wrong with the Four Weddings remake?
Hulu’s new show Four Weddings and a Funeral is the greatest argument against the idea that every beloved movie merits a 10-episode, hour-long series remake on a major streaming platform. Co-creators Mindy Kaling (who’s made her love of rom-coms known) and Matt Warburton took one of the most effortlessly charming films of the ’90s and turned it into a jumbled mess that, despite several scenes at lively parties and ritzy restaurants, is about as dull as an evening at home spent watching... well, this.
To its credit, the Four Weddings team did at least nail the meet cute. The series begins with Maya, a political aid played by Game of Thrones veteran Nathalie Emmanuel, losing her bag at Heathrow when Kash, a depressed banker played by Nikesh Patel, steps in to help her find the suitcase in a cavernous corner of the airport full of bags that look exactly like hers. Kash, you see, is at the airport to have lunch with his dad — a widower who works as an airline ticket agent — so obviously he knows a thing or two about how Heathrow operates. Their chemistry during this bag-finding odyssey sets up the romantic conflict — because currently in a serious relationship, and she’s having an illicit affair with a politician back in the states.
It’s all pretty much downhill after that, for both the viewer and the would-be couple. We meet all of Kash and Maya’s friends — surprise, he’s dating one of her besties! — and their significant others. Everyone’s attractive and well-dressed, with seemingly endless wealth. Yet the lives of these London yuppies fall short of being truly enviable because nobody seems to be having much fun. Four Weddings has been rightly celebrated for its casting; the show features a diverse group of talented up-and-comers. It’s just too bad that these fine actors are bogged down by such a clunky script.
The show is at its best during scenes with Kash’s father, Haroon (Harish Patel). He’s a textbook “funny rom-com dad”: a buffoonish, but wise fellow who speaks in snappy sound bites. I loved watching him trying to convince his son to try and turn off the Great British Bake Off to watch his favorite Bollywood movie, Lagaan, for the 700th time. Equally amusing is a scene where Haroon tries to coax Maya into coming inside to chat with his son by promising French bread pizzas — “They come in a pack of four and there are only three of us,” he says with a grin. In any other show, these scenes might seem corny, but in Four Weddings they provide some much-needed levity and warmth.
Part of the joy of watching a movie like the original Four Weddings and a Funeral is seeing how swiftly the film introduces the main characters — and their quirky parents, co-workers, friends, and roommates — and immediately casts them into hilarious and/or agonizing situations. The movie, and others from writer Richard Curtis — Notting Hill! Love Actually!Bridget Jones’s Diary!— are masterpieces of cinematic efficiency. Which is why it’s particularly baffling to see that Curtis himself is on board as a producer of the Hulu series. (Gotta pay for that country house in Suffolk somehow, I guess.) If the king of overstuffed ensemble comedies can’t make a 10-part series with a dozen stars click, you know the problems run deep.
While pondering just why this streaming era-version of Four Weddings didn’t gel, I realized that there actually is a very similar series that works in all the ways this show doesn’t: Netflix’s recently-cancelled series Friends From College. The big difference with that show is that the cast is mostly made up of comedians and sitcom vets who can land all the punchlines and keep the energy lively even during the slower parts of the story. That show also has a certain cheekiness and general feistiness that is much more in line with the original Four Weddings than its TV remake.
The first four episodes of Four Weddings and a Funeral are now streaming on Hulu, with more episodes coming next Wednesday. And if you want to take the Pepsi Challenge, all 16 episodes of Friends From College are also available on Netflix.
In other entertainment news…
- Chef’s Table is finally getting the parody it deserves with Gods of Food, a new series headed to College Humor’s streaming service Dropout.
- Gordon Ramsay shot a goat on his new show Uncharted and people are pissed.
- And speaking of Mr. Ramsay, the celebrity chef’s Kitchen Nightmares-esque show 24 Hours to Hell and Back is getting a third season at Fox.
- Vivian Howard’s new show South by Somewhere looks awesome. It’s coming to PBS in the first half of 2020.
- Prue, Sandi, Paul, and Noel briefly stepped out of the Big White Tent to announce that the Great British Bake-Off is returning at some unspecified point in the near future.
- Padma Lakshmi is starring in a new as-yet-untitled series for Hulu where the Top Chef host will travel America sampling dishes “from the first Americans to the latest arrivals.” No word yet on when it will premiere.
- And finally, Jimmy Fallon and the Queer Eye Fab Five went on an extremely ridiculous speedboat trip around Manhattan this week.
Have a nice weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for a way to take advantage of all that great summer produce, perhaps consider making Melisa Clark’s caramelized tomato tart tatin.