“We should enjoy food and have fun. It’s one of life’s simplest and most beautiful pleasures.” Search. Times are tough and I totally dig that Julia Child opinion. Now that my beautiful vet show is between seasons I’ve been looking for something else warm and cozy to watch and here we have it Juliaan eight-episode series dedicated to Julia Child and her cooking show, The French chef.
First off, if you don’t know who the show’s star, Sarah Lancashire, is, you’re probably not a lesbian who’s quite active on the internet. Remember this scene in mulan when they light the beacons to show that the Huns are coming? These are internet lesbians if there is any kind of queer woman romance on a show. Sarah Lancashire is not only English (love) and tall (LOVE), but she was also on Last Tango in Halifax, where she was in a relationship with Nina Sosanya. The bonfires were lit and many Tumblr dashes were filled with Sarah Lancashire GIFs.
I knew Julia Child mostly from the Kind of Okay movie Juliet & Juliet. If memory serves, were the Meryl Streep parts any good? But I don’t cook, and although I bought her seminal text, mastery of French cuisine, After that movie, like everyone else, I saw a recipe that contained numerous cooking terms I didn’t know and she shelved it forever.
So this show and its premiere episode! We begin in Oslo, 1961. Julia is cooking for her diplomat husband, Paul, and their Norwegian friends to celebrate Button’s offer to publish her co-written cookbook (it had three authors, two French cooking teachers and Julia). She has jokes! Everything is cozy and warm. Paul, played by David Hyde Pierce (fantastic), receives a phone call that he thinks will take him back to Paris, but is actually being called to a “you’re going to retire now” meeting. It’s, how do you say, discouraging. Side note: I was pleased that they made a thing out of the fact that no one knows how to pronounce button (it’s “K-nopf,” the show says).
A year later they live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Julia cooks and Paul spends all his time smoking and painting. I know people smoked a lot in America in the mid-20th century, but damn it. Another cozy thing about this show is all the overhead cooking shots. It sizzles in pans! It’s very satisfying, made even more so by Julia’s cheerful and cheerful presence. Am I selling Sarah Lancashire too hard? SHE’S JUST SO GOOD AT IT.
Julia goes on WGBH to promote the recently released one Mastery of French culinary art. Paul hates television. Paul is the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He never stops talking about how awful it is. Who asked you Paul? Fun fact about WGBH Boston: It wasn’t part of PBS at the time; It was a member station of what later became National Education Television (NET). WGBH joined PBS in 1970. Everyone loves the history of public television!
The segment Julia appears in is called “I’ve Been Reading,” hosted by Albert Duhamel, a professor at Boston College, who appears with a whistle and what may be a British accent. It’s a lot, but also exactly what you would expect from this era. He’s also very real! This segment and this man existed; I was so impressed when I checked it out. Duhamel is patronizing about the book and says they might want to rename the program What My Wife’s Been Reading (Boooooo). Julia mostly ignores this and makes an on-screen omelette, which she describes as “nothing more than lightly curdled eggs.” She neglects to even mention the title of her book, but has a good time confusing the host.
A person who appears sad not that existed in real life is Associate Producer Alice Naman, a young black woman who works at the network and appears to be the only female producer. Alice advocates for Julia with her high-spirited, withdrawn, white men in their 30s. She understands the importance of what Julia is doing for food in America — that’s a consistent lineage with the show’s women, and it’s maybe an elaborate point? But anyway, it’s the pandemic, and I’ll pick up the feminist storylines in whatever historical pieces come my way.
BEBE NEUWIRTH is Julia’s best friend, editor Avis DeVoto, who we first see with a cigarette and martini in hand. Great. Avis, Julia and Paul go to dinner to celebrate. Another thing about this show is that they go out to eat much, and if you’re still restaurant shy, it’s a vicarious delight. The restaurants are often nice, and Julia et al. appreciate their food so much that it makes you want to improve the quality of your own dishes, which is the whole point here! Eat well and enjoy life, she wrote, grabbing more Cadbury mini eggs from a bag.
Did Paul see Julia on TV? Of course not! It’s Paul! TV is his nemesis, even though he did absolutely nothing to it! However, he doesn’t even honestly stick to his principles; he Lie and pretends to have seen it. Avis catches him and yells at him. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy to see Niles and Lilith back together on screen, but I was very much into Frasier-Slash-Lilith and her changing dynamic when I was a senior in high school applause Spinoff, including Niles’ constant digging into her, has outraged me to an unjustified degree. I hope my 18-year-old self feels very supported by this strange lingering loyalty to a divorced and fictional couple. Julia says she’s fine when Paul isn’t watching, but is she??? Pull yourself together, Paul.
Before this episode, I never thought about bed size history, but Julia and Paul’s bed is so small; they lie directly on top of each other. I know they are very loving etc. etc. but I love my wife and she got us a king size bed because “her books take up half of it”. Apparently larger beds came onto the scene in the 1940s but didn’t really become popular until the 1950s. My mom said a king bed was necessary for a happy marriage, which feels right. The kid’s bed is just so small and I would push Paul out of the side as soon as he snored. (What if Paul’s parents were killed by a TV and that’s why he hates them.)
Julia wakes up in a sweat and goes to the doctor. He tells her in a kind, compassionate way that she is going through menopause and offers her recommendations for support and information. Hahahaha, JK. He tells her his wife has her cookbook and walks away. It is obvious that Julia is stricken and that this means something to her, particularly regarding her options for biological children. After leaving and calling home but not telling Paul (stick together, Childs!), she runs into a friend with a baby. This friend (Dorothy) is played by the woman who played Cathy The officeaka the person who aggressively tried to get Jim to cheat on Pam with her (get out of here, Cathy!).
Determined to move forward with her life, Julia writes a letter to Alice Naman proposing an educational cooking show. The men at the station don’t give a damn, even though they’ve received 27 letters from people wanting more Julia Child. Alice calls Julia to the studio and Julia brings a Queen of Sheba cake that has chocolate and almonds in it and looks really amazing. When Alice says it’s a no-go, Julia takes her to the no-saying men. There, Julia says the line from the trailer, “One of the perks of looking like me is that you learn from a young age not to take no for an answer.” She offers to pay for a test episode, and they can take them from there. A fair bargain!
Paul doesn’t want her to do it. It’s a complicated situation with Paul. He loves Julia very much, but she is clearly afraid to say things to him. To convince him, she invites her editor from Knopf, Judith Jones, who respects Paul not only for supporting Julia’s work, but also for following her along The diary of Anne Frank from the reject pile. With a tremendous amount of obvious flattery, Paul comes up with the idea and calls the show a budding rose in a forest of dandelions. Understood.
We end with Julia buying a TV! TV1, Paul0.