Welcome back to Friday afternoon, a time to give (and receive) high fives with abandon. I’ve got three recommendations for TV shows to watch this weekend, including a buzzy new Amazon series, a culinary travel program, and a UK show all about wine. Without any further ado…
’Forever’ is full of heavy hearts and empty stomachs
Master of None co-creator Alan Yang has cooked up a new series for Amazon Prime that’s stranger and darker than his previous hit (please be advised that there are no spoilers herein, by the way). Forever is also a much slower burn than Yang’s other rom-com, but it ultimately succeeds thanks to winning performances by stars Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. Dining is a recurring theme in both series, although unlike the restaurant-obsessed characters in Master of None, the protagonists of Forever don’t derive much pleasure from eating. Like many things in their lives, the very idea of eating food for pleasure seems like a memory that’s quickly fading away.
At the start of the show, cheery office worker June (played by Rudolph) and her nerdy dentist husband Oscar (Armisen) appear to be living a pleasant, if slightly boring, existence in a Southern California suburb, until their worlds are rocked by a few dramatic, spoiler-ific events... which shall not be revealed in this newsletter. When their lives are turned upside down, June and Oscar begin to confront the problems that have been lingering in their relationship for years.
One of the show’s running jokes is that Oscar is a very proud cook who makes food that people just don’t want to eat. Ths idea is introduced in the opening montage, where he keeps serving the same dish of trout almondine to June over and over again, her polite smile diminishing with each plate that hits the table. Later, Oscar and June present their new neighbor Kase (played by Catherine Keener) with a platter of his “extra special” mac and cheese, only to later spy her dumping the entire thing in her garden as soon as they leave. And when Oscar suggests making an ice cream sundae for his teenage friend Mark (Noah Robbins) when he’s feeling blue, his pal immediately rebuffs his offer.
Forever never explicitly spells out that all of his food is bad, but you do get the feeling that Oscar’s energy is misplaced. Instead of making an actual connection with his friends and loved ones, he wants to smooth over the awkward moments by whipping up something that will make him feel good about himself and shoving it in their faces. The themes inherent in this recurring bit of business — of avoiding conflict, searching for pleasure, and yearning to feel self-confident — are essential to the story told throughout Forever’s eight half-hour episodes.
At one point toward the end of the first season, June and Oscar find themselves sitting on the beach with a giant ham in their hands. After a few bites, they realize that a massive hunk of pork is not, in fact, the ideal beach food, and they have a hard time agreeing on just what would be the perfect thing to eat while sitting on the sand. Like all the best moments of the show, this scene shows two characters trying to reconnect in a world that no longer makes sense to them. The resolution of this conversation — when they land on that perfect food — turns out to be a breakthrough moment for the couple.
All eight episodes of this unusual comedic drama — which, by the way, features a great role for ’90s fixture Julia Ormond — are now streaming on Amazon Prime.
The Wine Show, Episode 7
Watch it on: Hulu
The gist: A large part of this UK show’s appeal is that it stars two bona fide celebrities — Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) — who really don’t know very much about wine.
In this particularly entertaining Season 1 episode, Goode and Rhys learn about tannins by tasting wine alongside Chinese tea, and they get a crash course in both Italian dessert wines and Roman-style pastry-making. In other segments of the show that do not feature the famous Matthews, sommelier Joe Fattorini visits Shanghai to learn about China’s ever-growing wine scene, and New Zealand chef Peter Gordon shows off some of his favorite dishes and pairings.
Your enjoyment of this show may depend on how much you like to watch two vacationing actors sip wine in the Italian countryside, but if you’re looking for something mellow and food-related to watch, The Wine Show is worth taking for a spin.
Big Food Truck Tip, “Birmingham”
Watch it on: iTunes
The gist: At the beginning of his new Food Network show, Andrew Zimmern says that he thinks food trucks are “the fastest way for a passionate, talented, and diverse group of people to get into the food business.” And in keeping with that idea, the TV host spends the rest of the pilot episode showcasing the work of three different food truck teams in Birmingham, Alabama.
Zimmern hits up two food trucks — Granny’s Fish and Grits and the Highway Kabobery — operating outside of Regents Field, as well as a “kitchen sink burger” truck called the Chubbfather that sets up outside a local hospital. At the end of the episode, Zimmern drops a fat wad of cash ($10,000 to be precise) in one of the tip jars, as well as smaller tips (only $1,000) in the other two.
Although this is ostensibly a competition show, Big Food Truck Tip is really just a way for Zimmern and his team to profile these upstart chefs and restaurateurs. This series definitely features some of the best comfort food footage of any new show on TV.
In other entertainment news…
- The Kenya episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown will air on CNN this Sunday, September 23. This season premiere will feature the last original narration that Anthony Bourdain recorded before he died. Future episodes will cull from previously recorded Bourdain interviews, and sequences filmed with other people in his orbit. Check out a preview of four of the new scenes here.
- In other Anthony Bourdain news, the late TV host appeared in a highly questionable Balvenie ad during the Emmy’s that enraged some viewers.
- The new Chef’s Table trailer looks intense and awesome.
- Alton Brown’s 13 newly remixed episodes of Good Eats will air on the Cooking Channel this fall. The first episode of Good Eats: Reloaded, as it’s called, will premiere on October 15.
- MasterChef just got re-upped for a 10th season on Fox.
- And finally, Jim Parsons — aka Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory — is attached to produce an NBC sitcom about Patrick O’Connell and Reinhardt Lynch, the gay co-founders of D.C.-area legend The Inn at Little Washington. The working title for the series is The Inn Crowd.