Today, HBO Max launched the first three episodes of Julia Season One, created by and written by co-executive producer Daniel Goldfarb. The other executive producer of this American biographical comedy-drama detailing the rise of Julia Child’s The French Chef is Christopher Keyser.
In Episode One, ” Omelet,” directed by Charles McDougall, both Julia Child (Sarah Lancashire) and her husband Paul Cushing Child (David Hyde Pierce) feel a bit rudderless back in Cambridge after his forced retirement from the U.S. State Department. In addition, the cookbook author feels invisible after a doctor diagnoses her with menopause.
Julia wishes to launch a cooking show after a popular demonstration of how to cook a perfect French omelet on P. Albert Duhamel’s (Jefferson Mays) Boston’s public television channel WGBH interview show I’ve Been Reading.
During Episode Two, ” Coo Au Vin,” directed by Charles McDougall, Julia prepares for and films the pilot for The French Chef. There has never been a cooking television show before, so Julia doesn’t even know how to format it. Director Russ Morash (Fran Kranz) refuses to help her because he feels resentful for having to work on a shallow ” show for women with means.”
Julia, her best friend Avis DeVoto (Bebe Neuwirth), Paul, and other friends spend an entire day figuring out how to cook Coo Au Vin in about thirty minutes. Julia flounders during the shooting of the pilot. Alice wants to fight for The French Chef’s continuation, while Russ celebrates the end of this frivolous television show.
In Episode Three, “Beef Bourguignon,” directed by Melanie Mayron, Julia struggles to juggle the multiple balls it takes to launch an entire season of The French Chef. Julia’s disagreeable father, John McWilliams, Jr. (James Cromwell), comes to visit, adding complexions to an already tense situation. WGBH President Hunter Fox (Robert Joy) loves the pilot for The French Chef, but Russ tries to kill the series by adding up all the expenses to prove it’s too costly to produce.
Julia’s desire to expand America’s palates leads her to agree to pay for all the ingredients and food preparations to bring down the budget. Hunter greenlights the project. Julia struggles to balance everything from raising funds through cooking lessons and writing an outline for the entire season. Thankfully, she finds the money allowing her to drop the cooking lessons by the end.
THE SPIRIT OF JULIA
The series doesn’t work without Sarah Lancashire’s ability to express Julia Childs’s sometimes contradictory personality. She wrestles with insecurities about her age but loves to ham it up. The scene where Julia shows Albert, a.k.a. “Duke,” how to fry up the perfect French omelet reveals her flashy, confident, and highly skilled side.
At the start of ” Omelet,” the author struggles to figure out how she will speak about her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking during the interview. She glances at all the eggs, copper pots, and pans in her kitchen. These items inspire Julia to demonstrate her skills rather than merely talk about a cookbook. She wants to perform.
Julia doesn’t shy away from the bustling world of television. The guest asks associate producer Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford) to fetch her a hotplate without explaining why she needs one. Thankfully Alice loves Julia and had worked hard to get her on I’ve Been Reading as a guest. She fetches her a hotplate from Russ’ office. Lancashire masterfully uses subtle facial expressions throughout the interview scene to show everything from annoyance to pleasure.
The minute Albert introduces Julia, she completely takes over the program. She brilliantly pushes the host off balance by calling him by his nickname, “Duke.” Julia doesn’t care about looking prim and proper. Instead, she crawls around the elevated stage until she finds an outlet to plug in the hotplate. Julia has Duke assisting her within a couple of minutes by stopping the hotplate from falling and eventually whisking eggs. However, he spends a lot of the interview staring at the producers in puzzlement. Finally, Julia charms the television audience while simply explaining the recipe for cooking up a French omelet.
She makes French cooking feel within arm’s reach of the ordinary American. Julia presents the finished omelet to the camera. She quips that both Duke and the omelet are salivating, eliciting laughter from Alice and the crew members. She is a natural performer.
Julia appears relaxed in front of the camera, unlike Albert, whose tense. Both Julia and Duke take a bite of the dish. Albert grudgingly compliments her omelet, proving that even Julia’s critics love her food. She laughs when Albert jokes about the viewers getting cracking on making an omelet. Throughout the sequence, Julia essentially interviews Duke making her appear the natural host.
Julia’s whole face lights up when the camera’s light flashes red stopping the recording. Julia comments about how much fun the interview was. She muses about forgetting to talk about the cookbook but shrugs it off. Albert calls the whole interview silly but keeps on munching on the omelet. Julia Child’s talents are on full display throughout the first three episodes, making it hard for even the vocal naysayers to stomp out The French Chef.
In “Coo Au Vin, “Award-winning book editor Judith Jones (Fiona Glascott) reveals what a powerful friend Julia must be to inspire such loyalty. Judith first demonstrates her devotion during “Omelet” when she convinces Paul to support Julia’s cooking television show dream arguing she would be elevating people’s minds. Paul respects Judith’s opinion because she edits iconic books like The Diary of Anne Frank. Julia trusts the book editor’s opinion as well. When Julia feels nervous about filming The French Chef’s pilot, the first person she calls for help is Judith. She needs the editor’s guiding hand.
Before rushing to her friend’s aid, Judith sits through an editor’s meeting at Alfred A. Knopf Inc. Judith puts up with everybody cracking jokes about her running to help a cookbook author rather than focusing on serious novelist John Updike. Company president Blanche Knopf (Judith Light) scolds her for putting her energy into solving Julia’s crisis rather than focusing on an intellectual novelist. Judith ignores her boss catching the train to Boston rather than massage Updike’s ego at a luncheon. Nevertheless, Judith refuses to let snobs stop her from assisting a friend because she writes cookbooks rather than the next American masterpiece.
Judith spends the whole day with Julia, Paul, Alice, and Avis, figuring out exactly how to cook Coo Au Vin in thirty minutes before a camera while still explaining the recipe to homemakers. She doesn’t merely dole out advice to Julia but takes part in the prepping and cooking of the dish. All the women and Paul work hard, though occasionally stop to laugh at mildly dirty food jokes. Judith is a book editor, not a television producer or chef. Julia must be an incredible friend to inspire an award-winning book editor to take a day out of her busy schedule to volunteer her time to help invent a new genre of non-fiction television, the cooking show.
” Omelet” and the other first two episodes of Julia promise a humorous engaging season to foodies and historical drama-comedy fans. Let me know what you think in the comments below.