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This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
The best TV episode of the week.
The best new food show.
Laughing about Jeremy Piven.
Another great tweet.
‘One Day at a Time’s Sensational Animated Special
It’s no small feat that One Day at a Time manages to loudly articulate all of the volatile political and cultural talking points that cause the average person to develop anxiety and an upset stomach, yet also be the aspirin and the tonic to calm those ill and uneasy feelings.
The Pop series, thriving despite one of the most irritating programming decisions Netflix has ever made, returned this week with a special episode. It was a special special episode, breaking its multicam sitcom format and instead fully animating the Alvarez family in cartoon form. It’s one of the more ingenious and inventive pivots to produce new content amid the constraints of the pandemic-necessitated Hollywood shutdown.
The show had more to say, shutdown be damned, and we should all know better by now than to try to keep the Alvarezes silent. In fact, that’s the theme of the special. And you can watch it now!
“The Politics Episode”—again, fully animated—centers around the family’s anxiety over an impending visit from their Trump-supporting relatives. In a bit of genius against-type casting, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz and Lin-Manuel Miranda voice Penelope’s (Justina Machado) cousin Pilar and her husband, respectively, while Gloria Estefan is Pilar’s mother, the sister of Rita Moreno’s Lydia.
Before they arrive, the family imagines how the uncomfortable conversations about politics are going to go. The animation allows them to jump-cut into hypothetical arguments over Pizzagate, transgender rights, and climate change.
Penelope wonders why the family can’t just talk Pilar and her husband out of their MAGA ways with facts. “Sorry I forgot to tell you, facts don’t matter anymore,” her daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez) tells her. When their imagined conversations devolve into hurling insults, Penelope wonders, “What happened to when they go low, we go high?” “Yeah, that went out the window with facts,” Elena says.
It’s an obviously topical episode but, more importantly, very funny. Miranda gets an ace Hamilton joke. Gloria Estefan and Rita Moreno have a sing-off. Moreno is somehow still the best physical comedy actress on TV when just using her voice. But above all that, it never lets humor or personal politics—on behalf of the creative team or the characters—supersede intelligence and heart.
Padma’s Excellent New Food Show
A few weeks ago, I was on a kick trying to cook more in quarantine and also feeling very anxious about the state of media and wanting to find a way to support journalism. Long story, my first issue of Bon Appétit magazine arrived in the mail this week.
I bring up the unfortunate timing of this print magazine subscription because it’s one of two times I felt like a fool this week for a previous obsession with a cooking brand that didn’t just harbor ghastly institutional racist barriers, but tended to exhibit them in plain sight in its YouTube Test Kitchen videos that I may or may not have binge-watched until 3:30 am on several nights.
The second time was while watching episodes of Padma Lakshmi’s new Hulu food show Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi.
The series follows the Top Chef host as she travels to immigrant communities around the country to learn what “American food” really means today.
(A fantastic quote she gave to Variety: “We throw around a lot of platitudes like, ‘nothing’s as American as apple pie.’ Well, apple pie is not American. Not one ingredient in apple pie is indigenous to North America. Not even the apple! So what are we talking about here?”)
In minutes, Lakshmi and the series dismantle ideas about how we think about food, specifically from immigrant cultures, and the ways we’ve allowed media and television to talk about and even celebrate it.
It’s embarrassing the ways in which we’ve lionized the Anthony Bourdain approach to food and travel series that are about cultural exploration: white man goes to foreign place and is applauded for asking thoughtful questions of the people there. (It wasn’t just Bourdain. It is every single one of those shows.) Some of them are good. That’s fine. But this is great.
Here is Lakshmi, a woman of color and immigrant who has spent her life in a white society and who has “been subjected to beauty standards that my male colleagues don’t even know what it’s like to be subjected to,” as she told The Washington Post. “That informs my point of view.”
It’s a fascinating, engaging point of view. More than that, the show is really fun to watch. So, uh, bon appétit.
Hahahahahaha Jeremy Piven
This week, the service Cameo, which allows you to pay for a video message from a celebrity, advertised a new and potentially exciting feature. And that is how I learned that Jeremy Piven was charging $15,000 for a 10-minute Zoom call.
In any case, if you are someone who actually paid and did this, please contact me so that I can devote the next three months of my life to learning every single detail about you and what led you to this point.
“50 Shades of Separation”
A friend sent me this tweet, and it made my head spin for at least 10 minutes.
Almost as good is the commenter who followed up, “50 Shades of Separation.”
In any case, Dakota’s house is fantastic, her Architectural Digest tour of it is even better, and none of this, beyond being a brief distraction, is important in the least. Black Lives Matter. Trans Lives Matter. Wear a mask, you godforsaken fucking assholes.
What to see this week:
The Politician: Bette Midler! Judith Light! So much better than season one!
Perry Mason: Not at all like the old Perry Mason. Who cares?
Search Party: Season three is kind of...brilliant.
Sherman’s Showcase Black History Spectacular: One of the funniest things I’ve seen this year.
What to skip this week:
You Should Have Left: Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried, 27 years apart in age, are a married couple. Nope!!!