Cooking shows. Craft shows. Makeover shows. What’s the core appeal? Is it a simple enjoyment of beautiful things? Is it design ideas? You know when you watch a show like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and you think to yourself, “Yeah, if I had a whole day and all the ingredients I could probably make that.” You may or may not do that, of course. But it’s fun to entertain the fantasy.
Yeah – there is no way anyone is going to even pretend to be able to make anything like the macabre masterpieces showcased in the oddity that is The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. Be it a Ginger Dead House, a Chicken Pot Pie (which actually looks just like a chicken) or a cake with a splayed racoon complete with open chest cavity – this is not something you just whip up in your own kitchen.
Christine McConnell is a popular Instagram star whose followers have been enjoying her intricate and dark arts of baking, sewing, or cooking. Clearly Netflix were interested in creating a vehicle around an already successful online presence in order to drag in the viewers. And whilst the approach settled on actually makes perfect sense on paper – an Addams Family / Jim Henson crossbreed that fills in the gaps between Christine’s pieces to camera – the practical result is rather clunky.
The show is marred by a few problems, not least a serious case of the ‘not funnies’. The comedy bits that form the creepy bread around Christine’s black hearted jam are strained with the kind of ‘set up / gag / repeat’ cycle that betray a lack of any skill in the writing department, at least in the early episodes. The puppets rounding out the cast are: Rose, a battered, horny, and stinking reanimated raccoon corpse with a bent fork for a hand; Edgar, a massive dog slash werewolf with an intelligence problem but a thirst for blood; and Rankle, a mummified cat who can’t get over no longer being worshipped as a god.
Their banter is woefully predictable and it’s only the injection of temporary guest stars per episode that get it near worthwhile. Unfortunately, Christine herself is clearly not a natural actress or presenter. So whilst she is undoubtedly enjoying having her – unquestionably stunning – skills surrounded by a carnival of the bizarre, she doesn’t manage to inject any verve into proceedings.
Wonky framing aside, there is sheer wonder to be had in watching Christine’s creations come to life. A full blown Victorian ginger bread house? Wow! A gothic tea set made entirely out of chocolate? Amazing! The sheer craftwork and talent on display, especially combined with a joyously twisted sense of style, makes for amazement all round. You are never going to see anything like the edible art that showcases this series. You are also highly unlikely to be able to make any of it, both because to do so would require lots of specialist tools, but also because the show simply doesn’t have the time to show you step by step and so often skips massive chunks of the build process. Think more Ace Of Cakes hours long work rather than Delia Smith whip it up in half an hour.
This does somewhat beg the question, who is The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell for? It isn’t funny enough for comedy fans, dark enough for the gothic inclined, nor instructional enough for people who actually want to make the things they see. Really, the title is a perfect description because the show is for people who…..want to see The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. It’s as simple as that. Watching the sheer bizarre mixture of Henson puppets, alternative craftwork, and stupendously talented freaky food fusions is a strong enough concept alone. Maybe with some better writers and a bit more oomph to the presentation this show could pull itself out of oddly compelling oddity to genuine hit. I truly hope so.
Words by Michael Record