Friday, October 28, 2022

Calling All Macabre Bakers: Netflix's Callously Canceled CURIOUS CREATIONS OF CHRISTINE MCCONNELL

Netflix only gave us one short season of this very curious mix of deranged muppets, how-to naking, macabre decor, and the elegant McConnell, showing us step-by-step how to make perfectly realistic tarantulas out of cookies. Fans of her Youtube (?) channel and those like mem who just tumbled onto it during a 4 AM search for some chill baking show to fall asleep to, were amazed, enthralled, confused. But not enough people came, so it got canceled after six episodes. 

It's understandable - Curious Creations of Christine McConnell doesn't fit any easy category. There is no row for what it is, neither this nor that, a macabre kids show aimed at the Addams children. It would have perfect home on local TV, at 5 AM on Friday night/Saturday mornings in the 70s,  before the golden hour between late-late show broadcasts of class horror movies and early morning cartoons. The only way I can describe it might be, if Tim Burton produced a puppet show from hell, starring a steady-handed, elegantly dressed, staggeringly talented fusion of Morticia Addams, Martha Stewart, and Bob Ross if he hung out with muppets. Christine has a mummified cat full of Waldo Lydecker-ish put-downs, a stray raccoon she rescue - wearing a pink bow (a real bane of the cat's existence) a big wolfman kind of a thing and monster in the basement who actually does eat one of the more obnoxious guests, and even a human male love interest who might be a serial killer. And he's not annoying! Clearly this isn't for kids, unless they're cool with monsters and easy-bake ovens. 

That's why it was canceled perhaps - just too brazenly itself. People might go on the baking row or horror row or wherever and look for something random and see that thumbnail image with its fancy font (at right), and it might frighten the gentle folk in search of family values fun, yet makes its ideal audience (the weird ones) dismiss it as ye another PG-rated show of the "Sabrina/Hermione sleuth and her quirky friends at a Disney-style haunted school" variety, its hackneyed score coked with Elfman whimsy, its cast bursting with hot young guys and old character actors with mysterious pasts). BUT in this one the Sabrina/Hermione bake cakes between adventures, or maybe runs a small bakery--OMG, 2 Broke Girls (-1) crossed with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In short, it practically begs you to scroll past. 

Christine is nothing like any of that, so how to advertise it escapes Netflix's PR people. The executives should have had patience enough to let its weirdness slowly accrue a cult. Rather than let it accrue it was cut off after one season. Ironically all those aforementioned teenage witch shows are about staying true to yourself, even if you don't fit the available molds.

Truth be told, it's a weird show. I almost gave up on it myself. I watched two episodes still in a WTF kind of mood. Was this too twee and faux-quirky? Maybe, but when the serial killer guy arrived, and the monster in the basement, I kind of came around.  

What's unique is the the vibe is in total rapport with the super mellow Christine, whose steady surgeon hands making this big elaborate cakes and cookies in the shapes of tarantulas, skeleton fingers, huge haunted mansion cakes, and are a sight to see. I also like her kind of sand mandala Zen approach to it all. These baked creations take hours but usually within minutes after finishing it, she just digs in and passes pieces around -- all without a second thought. For a girl who has amazing. clothes, furniture, and stuff (she has a popular Youtube how-to channel showing off her elaborate place settings and gorgeous Victorian mansion) she is remarkably free of the kind of materialist furor that can possess artists afraid to let go of their work. 

Sometimes it can be tough to read if her type are just doing the macabre thing as a way to stand out and hook a certain demographic, i.e. Elvira or Lana Del Rey, or are legit oddballs, like Dame D'arcy or Melora Cregar. The cartoon-Victorian art direction or period gowns can seem marketed by male producers to draw in lonesome horror fans, or it can seem like a legit artist with strange tastes honed it just right to her weird liking. The Curious Creations of Chritine McConnell (the whimsy of the name is also a red flag) seems the latter.

So don't let the Burton-esque decor fool you into thinking she's all goth-posturing, this McConnell's weird Martha Stewart meets Morticia Addams vibe can throw you off at first, until you realize it's not going to go to all the hack places you expect it to. There is no single predecessor, no other such animal. It's like those orange frosted cookies with jack-o-lantern faces put out by the local baker on Halloween enhanced and perfected to the point of art, to the point they are indistinguishable from real pumpkins. There is no need for Halloween to justify this - the occult is every day. Thus a weird Scarfolk air of genuine weird  hangs over the familiar elements, and it can feel dangerous, even threatening.

Too many original shows have died this way, but petitions by a slowly growing cult fan base brought 'em back. Maybe if you sign the one for Christine,, on, you'll wreak a magic miracle. Me, I would love to get invited over for more baked tarantulas and severed human fingers, but I'm the demo. I watch the Great British Baking Show, to fall asleep or de-stress and I was in love with Morticia Addams as a kid, aspired to be Gomez, watched Dr. Shock (a Philadelphia TV horror movie host, ala Ghoulardi) every weekend. I hated The Muensters as as much as I loved The Addams Family. I always dreamed Wednesday and Pugsley would kill that little Eddie Muenster, and maybe Danny Partridge while they were at it, And also I grew up watching Sesame Street like every other 70s kid. In short I get the vibe of Christine McConnell. 

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