You may have seen glimpses of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell peering out at you from the Netflix menu over the last couple weeks. The homepage artwork promises dismembered ginger bread men and demon-faced treats, but it’s hard to get a read on just what to expect from this strange little cooking show/puppet comedy hybrid that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for a little spooky-but-not-scary Halloween content, you cant go wrong with The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, which boasts a clever concept and real spark of creativity that will keep you wide-eyed and amazed at each of Christine’s impossibly complex designs while laughing at the snarky, demented creature comedy with the puppets.
You may be familiar with some of the titular Christine’s designs from social media, where she went viral after making over her parents’ home into a monster mansion. An artist, baker and designer, she built a massive following with her incredible edibles, be it Xenomorph heads and a giant recreation of the Juggernaut in partnership with Alien: Covenant, a retro-themed set of treats for Stranger Things, a replica of the Sanderson Sisters’ cottage with a working smoke stack, or any of the other amazing gingerbread castles and creature concoctions she’s cooked up over the years.
Ever put together with her coiffed charcoal hair, elegant fitted dresses and the smokiest eye, Christine is a wonderfully offbeat combination of Nigella Lawson, a Tim Burton muse, and Dita Von Teese (who appears in the show as the fashionable ghost in Christine’s mirror, Vivienne). She’s got an unusual charm; calming, curious and far removed from the grinning excessive enthusiasm of the average TV host. But if she’s unconventional, that’s what makes her so much fun to watch. She’s the shining example of the perfect host, until she’s not. Like her spooky treats, she’s a bit of the traditional twisted up into goth-tinged extravagance. When her suitor Norman (who looks like he goes a little mad more than sometimes) comes calling, she tells him that her friends think he’s a murderous psychopath. Norman laughs nervously and she adds, “Not that would turn me off.”
And then there’s the matter of the puppets, who complement Christine’s delicately deranged humor with their pure insanity. “She’s a little mad. Fortunately she has us to look after her,” says Rankle, the reanimated cat. There’s the Octopus tentacle that passes Christine ingredients from the fridge, but the real showstoppers are Rose and Rankle, who are Christine’s right-hand rejects, always scheming up some murder plots (often against each other) in between chowing down on Christine’s gorgeous treats. Rankle the cat is a resurrected Egyptian diety with snark to spare. Rose is a roadkill Frankenstein’s monster, cobbled from pieces of dead animals and brought back to life by Christine — she is a mess, and she is my favorite part of the show; a hopeless disaster you can’t help but love. Created by the folks at Henson Alternative, the puppets are the surprise highlight of the show, performed with heart and killer comedic timing by Henson regulars Michael Oosterom (Rankle) and Colleen Smith (Rose)..
The other highlights, and it’s no surprise at all to anyone’s who’s seen what Christine can do with some food coloring and royal icing, are the curious creations themselves. Though they are edible and a bit kitschy, Christine’s designs really are artwork and it’s easy to be awed by her mastery. The first episode introduces us to her world with realistic-looking bone cookies (peanut butter and pretzel flavored), a ridiculous and stunning cake designed like a house with glossy eyeballs in the windows, and the old classic rice crispy treats… in the form of a giant beast with individually placed died coconut hairs. Naturally.
Look, some times the Barefoot Contessa and Pioner Woman can serve up some challenging recipes, but it’s just ridiculous to imagine anyone making Christine’s incredible designs at home. Which seems to be part of the gag — they’re just so spectacular and ornate, and the show doesn’t really spend the time to give you a full step-by-step because each piece would require a feature-length documentary. But if you do feel inspired to make some curious creations of your own, it’s not impossible, and Christine is proof of that. A self-made public figure who used a viral moment, heaps of artistic talent, and great style to launch a career. As she often points out in the series, these incredible creations can be recreated, but it takes a lot of patience and time (and again, some serious talent).
Later episodes include sewing directions, a candle-making tutorial and, of course, more tasty treats, and the episodes grow more fun as they go along, recipes growing more intertwined to the side plots and the episodes building to a Halloween-themed finale. The holiday focus is a smart move, and it’s sets a stage for a regular piece of seasonal programming if the numbers come through (and I dearly hope they do.) I’d love to see what Curious Creations we’d see for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, or any other holiday. Whatever creations Christine has in mind, and whatever sinister plot her creatures are up to, I can’t wait to see what’s next.