After Julia and Julia (2009), what more can Julia add? To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. Yet, Mrs. TMJ adores cooking shows. Am I missing something? Am I like the men at WBGH, not taking Julia Child seriously? Now, after three episodes, I’m ready to declare Julia the next Ted Lasso. At a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating and an early 8.0/10 IMDb score, critics and audiences may agree. While the movie focused on her book, this eight-part series on HBO Max centers on her efforts to get on, and remain on TV. Or, as one producer says, “if we are going to do a cooking show, shouldn’t we get someone better looking with a less distinctive voice?”
The cast is outstanding, the writing brilliant, and the sets marvelous, what else can one say? In 1962, public TV is still trying to define its role in American life. Does educational just mean high-brow? Another producer bemoans that BBC airs scientists but we do cooking. After receiving 27 letters wanting more Julia Child, the question of the day is “do we even have that many viewers?” Julia pulls no punches, just like her namesake, and steamrolls over the condescending males. Feminine wiles are on full and glorious display. I give the show 4.5 Gavels.
In 1962, Julia is still basking in the glow of the success of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A young producer, Alice Naman, at WGBH in Boston badgers her boss to get Julia on the show “What I’ve Been Reading.” Immediately, the host, Professor Albert Duhamel, dismissively reminds all that he doesn’t read cookbooks and today’s show will be “What My Wife’s Been Reading.” Ignoring him, Julia hijacks the show and makes him an omelette on a hot plate. A star is born? Well, not quite.
You’ve adored Sarah Lancashire in Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, and you will love her even more as Julia Child. The timing and the cadence are perfect. She truly inhabits the role. David Hyde Pierce plays her husband, Paul, and Bebe Neuwirth is delightful as friend, Avis. New to me is Brittany Bradford, excellent as “the only woman in the room,” Alice Naman, certain that the men don’t see Julia’s potential. Others in this excellent ensemble include Isabella Rossellini, James Cromwell, and Judith Light.
Prepare for your mouth to water as Julia makes Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, and the Queen of Sheba cake. Enjoy the reverse psychology used to override the reluctance of Paul. Empathize as Julia is stunned as menopause sets in. Clearly, there’s more to Julia than meets the eye.
“Ms. Lancashire all but effervesces in the title role of the eight-part Julia, an affectionate account, unconstrained by facts, about the woman who changed her country’s approach to cooking, and food.” Wall Street Journal
“Dignified, talented people being kind to one another as they savor existence to the last bite. Does that whet your appetite? We’d ask for seconds.” AV Club
The first three episodes dropped March 31st, the remainder on Thursdays through April 28th. I’m confident you’ll like what Julia‘s cooking.