‘The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell’ – Netflix

Sometimes TV shows come along and they’re more than one blogger can handle. Welcome to this original collaborative effort between yours truly at Dead Pixel Test and Birmingham food blogger extraordinaire Laura who writes over at Full to the Brum. Your usual Dead Pixel Test fare is above, seasoned with Laura’s unique take on this singular show, and her thoughts in full on each episode is your delicious dessert buffet below.

In the week where TV fans are lamenting the silencing of an animatronic cat, I might have just the thing to cheer you up. The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is a strange box of delights, released on Netflix in the build-up to Halloween, which is of course goth Christmas.

This out-there show is based around wholesome pastimes of baking, crafting and sewing but Christine specialises in some shocking creations. And she sets out her stall early. The first thing we see is Christine painting what seems to be an actual human skull and then absentmindedly biting off a spiders leg. Our host is a totally glamorous 1950s housewife with a sort of romantic Snow White look about her. Her set is a gorgeous pastel coloured kitchen with gothic hints in the spiderweb patterned kitchen cabinets. It’s as if the Stepford Wives weren’t obliging robots at all but had their own secret coven.

Odd enough right? Well, lets meet her team. Christine’s rag-tag adopted family are all incredible puppets made by the Jim Henson Company. The stand-out star here is resurrected roadkill Rose who leaks partially digested food out of her seams. Not letting a little thing like that hold her back she’s a insatiably horny murderous scene-stealer, with hobbies including eating herself into a diabetic coma, torturing neighbours and humping gnomes. Rankle is the sarcastic talking mummified cat from ancient Egypt (a descendant or ancient ancestor of Salem, depending on how you see it) who still expects to be worshiped. Big cuddly Edgar looks to be part Bigfoot, part werewolf, there’s a giant one-eyed fuzz ball in the basement and huge but useful tentacles that live in the fridge. The creatures, especially Rose and Rankle, definitely get the best lines. These Henson creations are certainly not kid-friendly and the show would be hideously saccharine without them.

For a program ostensibly about baking, it’s astounding that zero cakes actually get made. It’s like joining an episode of the Great Transylvanian Bake Off mid-way through a showstopper challenge when the dull and messy jobs are done. Christine’s specialities are sculpting, painting, and decorating with enviable precision. Everything she produces is extremely obsessively beautiful, everything is a masterpiece. Piped royal icing teeth and claws seem to be her trademark, which looks like the fiddliest job ever. If Marilyn Mason ever gets married again he knows who to get in to do the buffet.

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Christmas Telly Round-Up

To be quite honest with you, the bumper Christmas Radio Times (opened gleefully way ahead of time in our house) did not fill me with joy this year. The week in which about 90% of Britain downs tools, puts on their pyjamas and watch tv all-day every-day while eating Quality Streets and drinking prosecco (a healthy balanced breakfast) usually has an abundance of great telly. Was it just me thinking it was all a bit harder to find this year? Anyway, this is my little list of tv that caught my attention over the Christmas holidays.

Click through below for seven telly offerings, some which were more coal in the stocking than a sable under the tree…

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‘The Great British Bake Off: Series 7’ – On the Box

“I have cried over cake. I have shouted at a pie” admit the contestants in the pre-credits introduction. I myself have sulked at a chocolate brownie (too runny, even after hours in the oven) and thrown a hissy fit about a millionaire’s shortbread (Mr H had to take over and do caramel batch number three. It was impossible!). If baked goods make you emotional too, you know you’re in the right place. GBBO, episode 1 of series 7. Strap in for high-octane oven based excitement!

It’s week number one of the contest and it’s cake week. Which should in no way be mistaken for a cake walk – it’s quite the opposite. Blue-eyed silver fox Paul Hollywood promises the judging will get harder. I’m not sure that’s actually possible. Every year I enjoy watching the optimistic people who try to hide their failures with extra icing sugar, another layer of ganache or hidden at the bottom of the stack. Don’t they realise by now that Mary Berry has laser-guided vision for anything overbaked, underbaked or a bit shitty looking?

Almost like the producers read the internet too, Mel and Sue dive straight in and say the unsayable word ‘moist’. By itself it does sound sticky, sexual and faintly smelly. But in terms of sponge cake, it’s absolutely key.

Back to basics, says Paul. Good, says I. I’m sick of people using ingredients you can only track down on the Dark Web and have to purchase in bulk with a stash of little blue pills to make it look more harmless. And yes to creativity but enough with creating concoctions that seem like a mixologist’s fever dream. Shame then that the back to basics proclamation lasted for just about one task.

The Great British Bake Off

Surprisingly the technical challenge was jaffa cakes. What? I thought that was a brand name. To be fair, I’m no expert because they are revolting. I’m hoping next week it’s Tunnock’s Tea Cakes – giant dancing ones like at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The ‘show-stopper challenge’, which is a term that gets slightly more annoying each time you hear it, was mirror cake. WTF? This is week one people! It’s meant to be relatively easy – for the contestants to put them at their ease in one of the strangest kitchens in the world, covered from bunting to tent flap with cameras and microphones. And it’s meant to be a nice gentle welcome back to the returning audience, inspiring us to get back in the kitchen and cover every surface with flour, not trying to put us off with such complicated creations. The only nod to the beginners was that so many contestants restarted their Genoise sponge cake I was surprised everyone managed to finish in time. Maybe they had to give them all an extra half an hour?

So, the guy with the dryest, saddest-looking cake lost and was booted out of the tent. Lee, we hardly knew you.But Jane, who won the ‘star baker’ accolade shouldn’t rest on her laurels. After watching all the previous series my advice is to aim for fourth or fifth place for most of the challenges until the last few weeks. Don’t set the judges expectations too high, but do solid work. Mid-table results until you’re in the final 6 and then you can show off what you’ve learnt from the judges and your fellow contestants. everyone loves a contestant who has ‘been on a journey’. Goosbery fool-proof!

Episode one of GBBO is now available on iPlayer

 

Couch Potato Digest – wolves and cake in spaaaaace!

Good news and bad news this week in telly land. We’ll get straight to it and to soften the blow we have cake!

  • To save us from feeling too miserable now the stunningly successful Rio Olympics has finished I’m happy to report that The Great British Bake Off is back this Wednesday 24 August at 8pm on BBC1.  Love it or loath it.. no hang on, I know it’s formulaic game show tv produced by the same company who made the Daily Mail clickbait Benefits Street, but it’s the only one in that whole vast landscape of competitive human misery (ours) and self-delusion (the contestants) that actually works. No one is mean or manipulative, the judge’s criticisms are genuinely constructive and it is positively joyful.If you loath it, then you need to check yourself. I’m sorry for you.
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GBBO – Just seeing the logo is like a big delicious sigh of relief

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First Birthday!

It’s my birthday! I’m not 100% sure (and WordPress makes it hard to find out) but I’m going to record this day 17th August as the official Dead Pixel Test first birthday. I know I’m close because it was last summer I started to see articles about how there’s too much high quality tv to try to keep up with. I’d been feeling that way for a while and it was heartening to hear other telly fans and industry people say it too. That, and a nagging desire to write more, was the drive to start the blog.

To be honest we shouldn’t complain. You don’t have to go to the cinema to see beautiful complicated drama any more, or the newest comedy sensation. You can stay in with your slippers on. TV isn’t just silly game shows and amusingly shaped vegetables any more. Too many good things is a bit ‘first world problems’, I know, but you want to give your precious leisure time to something worthwhile. Literally worthy of your attention and devotion. And I like to think that over the course of the year I’ve helped bring a little more attention to great television (Murder in Successville, Chewing Gum, Billions) and show that even if everyone is talking about it, it still might be a total stinker which you should do your utmost to avoid (Marcella, Gamechangers, A Gert Lush Christmas).

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