FLOOD’s weekly Pop Culture Cure offers an antidote—or ten—to the most upsetting developments of the past week. (Because therapy’s expensive, and entertainment’s not.)
“God damn it,” God said as he looked down upon the Earth yesterday. And rules are rules, so God had to do as God had mandated, and thus condemned the Earth to a life without Mel and Sue on The Great British Bake Off. But fear not, fellow mortals! For deep is the well of the past, and profound is the memory of the DVR, and there are a lot of other hosts out there who share Mel and Sue’s capacity to (ahem) charm the pants off of (ahem) all who come before them. So let’s put our buns aside for a moment, and try to console ourselves with those other charmers…
Dick Cavett on The Dick Cavett Show
Dick Cavett is as cool, calm, and collected while watching Katherine Hepburn rearrange his set furniture as he is when three drunk madmen do performance art all over his face. He is always, in other words, the perfect host. He did it like it was his job, and he didn’t do a bad interview either.
David Bowie in Peter and the Wolf
I remember appreciating the narrator of Peter and the Wolf even back when I was a kid worried about an imaginary boy being eaten by a motley collection of french horns (the most murderous horns, by far), but my appreciation went up to space infinity when that previous narrator was replaced by David Bowie. David Bowie as narrator is one of the best David Bowies.
Jiro in Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Does Jiro enjoy sushi? That is not clear. Does he make the best sushi on the planet, and does he make said sushi in a metro station in Tokyo? Yes, most people agree that that is the case. How this is possible is the implicit subject of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which is much more occupied with questions of happiness, quality, process, prestige, family, and history than it is with the question of what it means to make a sublime shrimp roll. Jiro is an inspiration because Jiro cares about doing things well. Very, very well. This is the table that we should all be sitting at, and this is the man who should be looking down upon us.
If you haven’t read True Grit you should do yourself a favor and read True Grit. And if you have read True Grit then you should do yourself a favor and listen to Donna Tartt read True Grit, because this really is a book that deserves to be heard and not read. Because Mattie Ross’s voice, in a very real way, is the book. You can hear some of it in the Coen Brothers’s adaptation, but for a full dose, this is the real thing. Mattie is the co-pilot everyone should be lucky enough to have on their next six-hour drive. And her story is un-put-down-able to the max.
Oprah on The Oprah Winfrey Show
When Oprah started out, let’s remember, she was part of a very cruel, very crass, very manipulative daytime TV world. But then, of course, she Oprah’d that shit, turned daytime on its head, and made talk shows seem more like angels than demons. Bees memes aside, her legacy is secure. She created a new model, and that model is a lot less likely to expose the fact that you are not the father of the child you thought you fathered, earn you a black eye or a bruised genital, or get you shamed by an audience of Ohioans. And that is to the good. The world is now a better place.
E. H. Gombrich in A Little History of the World
When Ernst Gombrich was twenty-six years old (so after he’d received his doctorate in art history, but before he’d become a world-famous art historian), he became interested in writing a brief history of the world for young readers. A friend of his wanted to publish such a book, but in order to keep to the original schedule, they would need the entire manuscript within six weeks. Gombrich accepted the challenge. Less than six weeks later, he’d completed a masterpiece of both education and entertainment. Human history is not an unbloody thing, but with him as a guide, you feel more awe than terror.
Julia Child in everything, but most efficiently via this remix
Child remains best known for her iconic cookbook and for the equally iconic television show that arose as a result of the book’s success, but in this brief mash-up video you get to see what really made her special—her sincerity, her enthusiasm, and her ebullience—all set to haunting techno music. And all produced by PBS. (Or you can just watch her make an omelet. That works too. Because to be in her company is to be #blest.)
Rob Brydon in The Trip
The Trip is not a documentary. That can be confusing at first, because Michael Winterbottom likes to blur the line between reality and entertainment. The actors never look at the camera, but the actors are also in almost every other respect playing themselves. And that’s the whole movie in a nutshell. Steve Coogan is the slightly more attractive and slightly better known comedian who is asked to go on a food tour of northern England with his girlfriend, and when his girlfriend begins to back out of the project (and the relationship, maybe?) Coogan’s friend (fremesis?) Rob Brydon is invited to sign up instead. The results are, in a few words, v. tense and v. hilarious. Did you know that an imitation of Michael Caine can show you what it means to be human? Well, it appears to be the case. Do you know what a tiny man in a box sounds like? No? Well, you should. Coogan is the ostensible focus of the film and he creates most of the aforementioned tension, but Brydon is the joyful undercover host of the project: the guy someone might actually want to travel around England with. (PS: The Trip volume three is coming soon!)
Tim Gunn on Project Runway (and IRL)
Granted, he’s not technically a host, but he is definitely the spirit guide that makes me want to be a clothing designer even though I have a hard time distinguishing between the front and back of many pieces of everyday wear (and not in a fun retro way). And if you have a hard time believing that someone on a reality show can be both that critical and that generous—can be that good—don’t take my word for it, take Seth Meyers’s.
Virgil in The Divine Comedy
There are bad hosting jobs and then there is that gig that requires you to escort a verbose Italian poet through ALL THE CIRCLES OF HELL. Virgil signed on, Dante kept his wits, and they marched north AF, to heaven. And they got there, friends. They got there. (Or so Wikipedia tells me. Virgil’s a great host by virtue of degree of difficulty, but that’s not to say that I want to chill with the bro or his charge over the course of three full volumes. Because I do not.) FL