It’s been a crazy week in the world of food media. I’ve got a recap of all the big TV news, but first, here’s one show to put on your must-watch list, plus a few other streaming recommendations:
Mrs. Maisel’s trip downtown
Amy Sherman-Palladino has a new show that, like her previous hit, involves a coffee house. But unlike Gilmore Girls, which features a fictional northeastern diner called Luke’s as the primary hangout, this one revolves around a real New York establishment that is the stuff of legend: the Gaslight Cafe. It’s here where Miriam Maisel, a fastidious 1950s housewife from the Upper West Side, ends up one night after her husband drops a relationship bombshell. Instead of sitting at a table and taking in the folk music or beat poetry, Miriam jumps on stage and begins her unlikely career as a stand-up comedian.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is equal part family-centric drama and showbiz fantasy. With a colorful production design and big, brassy characters, the whole thing feels like it’s made for the Broadway stage. Thankfully, even the show’s more unbelievable moments are buoyed by great performances.
My favorite part of this show, apart from Rachel Brosnahan’s performance in the titular role, is the way that Sherman-Palladino and her crew have recreated iconic Greenwich Village beatnik haunts like the Gaslight and the Kettle of Fish tavern. It’s a more expansive version of midcentury Manhattan than the one featured on Mad Men, the previous standard bearer of New York nostalgia on television. And, like Sherman-Palladino’s other big hit, food keeps popping up everywhere these characters go. Throughout the show’s eight episodes, you’ll find plenty of dinner scenes at the Maisel household, and early in her journey, Miriam even uses her brisket as a form of bribery.
This is definitely a must-watch show for fans of Gilmore Girls, and anyone who’s interested in the Greenwich Village coffee house scene that produced Lenny Bruce, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. All eight episodes of Season 1 are now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Streaming selections du jour
To stream: The Great British Baking Show Season 5 Masterclass: Christmas
Watch it on: PBS.org
The gist: If you’re looking for some baking ideas, or simply want another hit of that Baking Show magic to get you through the shortest days of the year, PBS is now streaming this holiday special featuring judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. The hour-long program includes demonstrations for how to make panettone, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and winter cakes, plus banter and holiday anecdotes from Berry and Hollywood, who are filmed inside a wintery manor house in the English countryside.
To stream: Pizzaiolo
Watch it on: Facebook, New Yorker Video
The gist: Dom DeMarco has spent the last 52 years making pizza at his shabby little restaurant Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn. The pizza’s good — the best in NYC, some say — but a huge part of the Di Fara experience is watching DeMarco go through a series of movements that he’s been practicing his whole life. There’s the cheese scatter. The pizza pull. The basil snip. The olive oil pour. And this tidy little short film from the New Yorker captures them all in vivid detail.
In other entertainment news…
- As you might have heard, four women accused Mario Batali of sexual misconduct this week, and subsequently, ABC asked him to take a leave from his daytime talk show The Chew while the network investigates the allegations. The remaining three hosts of that program — Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, and Michael Simon — acknowledged his departure on air on Tuesday. And on Thursday night, the network announced that it terminated its relationship with Mario completely. Nobody wants to do business with Batali any more.
- Meanwhile, ABC is shelving the remaining episodes of The Great American Baking Show, which premiered last Friday, because co-host Johnny Iuzzini is being accused of sexual misconduct by several former employees. This is the right decision, although considering that the reports about Iuzzini surfaced last month, I might argue that ABC pulled the plug one week too late — it never should have hit the airwaves to begin with.
- Morgan Spurlock, the director and star of Super Size Me, admitted to being accused of raping a girl in college and harassing an assistant at his production company eight years ago. Spurlock’s Super Size Me sequel recently got picked up by YouTube Red, but the company has not announced a release date yet. On Thursday night, Spurlock announced that he was stepping down from his position at Warrior Poets, the production company he co-founded 13 years ago.
- And in further culinary miscreant news, disgraced New Orleans chef/restaurateur John Besh got scrubbed from the new season of Top Chef this week. I commend Bravo for making this decision. An unfortunate comment about harassment found its way into the season premiere, but judge Tom Colicchio told me that it was edited out for re-runs. I hope that the teams behind these programs continue to keep the recent reports of sexual misconduct in mind as they are editing together the stories and soundbites of this show.
- In sunnier TV news, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Portlandia are both coming back in early 2018. This will be Portlandia’s last season, and Queer Eye’s first with its new Netflix cast. The food expert this time around is a relative unknown named Antoni Porowski who was apparently hand-picked by the old Fab 5 culinary pro, Ted Allen.
And a note on Bourdain: In light of the Batali news and the sexual misconduct allegations lodged at Spotted Pig restaurateur Ken Friedman, Anthony Bourdain wrote a post on Medium titled “Reacting to Bad News.” Bourdain, who recently produced a documentary that featured both men as talking heads, writes: “Any admiration I have expressed in the past for Mario Batali and Ken Friedman, whatever I might feel about them, however much I admired and respected them, is, in light of these charges, irrelevant.”
While I admire that Bourdain is using his platform to talk about toxic masculinity in the restaurant industry, I’d also love to see him use some of his airtime and/or production muscle to tackle this subject. Perhaps he could produce a documentary about sexual harassment in kitchens, and how to build a better work environment? Or perhaps he could devote some of his Parts Unknown episodes to this subject, or at least feature more women and less of his cool dude chef friends? It’s important to talk about this issue, but changing how kitchen culture is represented in film and TV will take a lot more than just Medium posts, interview soundbites, and Tweet storms.
My big wish for 2018 is that all the showrunners and producers of food TV keep this in mind as they book guests, write scripts, and greenlight projects in the new year.
Order some good food this weekend — you deserve it,
— Greg Morabito
Note: The email version of this newsletter included a recommendation for A Very Murray Christmas, which we removed after a reader pointed out that actor Bill Murray himself has been accused of sexual misconduct and abuse.