FYI:“ The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell” Are Devilishly Delicious
As unlikely as it might sound, cooking shows might be the most diverse genre of television on the planet. From the tranquility of The Great British Baking Show, to the cuteness of Masterchef Junior, to the unbridled rage of Hell’s Kitchen – shows about food, whether the competitive or the instructional variety, are the one case where everyone can pick a favorite no matter their taste. With that said, there’s one genre of food programming that is rarely seen outside of the children’s networks. Despite that, it can make for a unique and engaging viewing experience, and that’s definitely the case with The Curious Creations Of Christine McConnell.
The genre I’m talking about is narrative cooking shows, where the tutorial portions are interrupted by or presented alongside the fictional exploits of the host, their co-stars, or guests that have happened to wander in. Normally these kinds of shows have the host existing in some kind of fantastical world, where their kitchen adventures are interrupted by fairy-tale creatures, animal sidekicks, or even aliens – seeking help, advice or just a tasty treat. Like I said, this whimsical approach to television has been largely relegated to cooking programs aimed at kids and parents, such as Big Cook, Little Cook or Planet Cook, but Curious Creations uses its unique tone to incorporate these elements without ever appearing infantile to its adult audience.
The premise of Curious Creations is that its host Christine lives in a gothic manor house at the top of a hill, kept company by her pets and roommates. Sounds like a relatively normal set-up, until you realize her roommates are the ghosts that dwell in her mirror and the zombies that lurk in her wardrobe, and her pets consist of re-animated deities and roadkill, as well as a huge wolf that wandered in from the cold. Episodes are split between the main conceit – a birthday to be celebrated, a crush who’s coming over for dinner, or nosy neighbors who need to be placated – and the food and crafts Christine creates to celebrate the occasion and overcome the obstacle. This mix between reality and fantasy is echoed by the split between the pastel vintage aesthetic and seriously creepy elements, which makes for a truly unique feel.
Christine’s skill as a baker is obvious, whether she’s making simple edible spiders, huge gingerbread haunted houses, or intricate four-flavor roadkill cakes. While the macabre theme of all her crafts might initially seem off-putting, most of her projects are more whimsical and cartoonish than they are gory and realistic. Not only that, but their placement alongside pretty lace doilies and delicate tea china ensure they always feel strangely quaint, like Betty Crocker got lost in Halloweentown and made it her mission to clean things up a bit. As for the tutorials themselves, she skips past key information like ingredients and timings, but those are mostly things a quick Google search could find for you anyway. Instead, she gives time over to the explanation of skills you might be less familiar with - such as how to create intricate chocolate work, how to create realistic body parts out of fondant, and how to work an airbrush tool.
That aside, the main appeal of the show isn’t the idea that you might one day make the bakes themselves. For one thing, some of her projects are so detailed and impressive that they’re more fatiguing than energizing to consider trying your hand at, and the main pleasure instead comes from marveling at her skills. Mostly though, the joy of each half-hour episode comes from the interplay between her and her housemates, and the zany albeit sinister adventures they get up to in between projects. To give an example, one episode centers around Christine’s encounter with a handsomely dressed man named Norman, with old timey manners but thankfully no fixation on his mother. She invites him back to the house for a dinner date, and the ensuring hijinks are sweet and endearing, in an Addams family kind of way.
Watching Christine flutter over serving drinks while her date is aggressively hit on by a zombie puppet raccoon is an experience, especially as they’re flanked on either side by an ancient Egyptian mummified cat and a giant wolf with a dopey voice and heart of gold. The whole thing is made even more surreal when her date turns out to be a dab hand with a knife, in more of a serial killer way than a chef way. Watching them come together as a family over the kitchen table, despite the bickering over hairballs, the fresh blood on the carpet and the scent of rotting zombie flesh, is charming all by itself, made more impressive by the fact that Christine considers herself a baker, not an actress, first.
All in all, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is the perfect Halloween watch, and the perfect family one. Those craftily inclined will delight over the makes and bakes, while kids will be entranced by the creepy-cute monsters courtesy of the Jim Henson studio. As for everyone else, the kitschy sitcom feel occasionally shattered by appropriately horror-themed innuendo and genuinely engaging character moments will ensure its impossible to look away, and makes the creepy house on the hill a place you’ll want to be invited to all year round.