The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell Review (TV Series, 2018) #31DaysofHorror
It’s not very often that I find TV shows that really feel like I’m the target audience. My interests are wide and varied. I like crafting. I love horror. I’m a lifelong home haunter. I bake. I sew. I work in theater (educational theater mostly, but theater nonetheless) and love set design, lighting, props, and puppetry.
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is a new Netflix original series that checks off all those boxes. Imagine Pee-Wee’s Playhouse crossed with peak Martha Stewart and set in a horror universe. Christine McConnell teaches you how to conceptualize creepy treats and craft projects while surrounded by cute monster puppets in a pastel Victorian manor. It’s calming, entertaining, unnerving, and addictive.
The puppets are incredible. It’s no surprise when the credits reveal that the Jim Henson Company and Henson Alternative are responsible for the designs. These creatures feel real to this world and really tie the whole thing together.
Rankle is the mummy of a hairless cat dating back to Ancient Egypt. He appears to be almost animatronic in style, a delicate form manipulated from under a counter or tabletop with external controls. Rose is a raccoon that Christine brought back to life ala Frankenstein’s Monster with all new parts (including a skunk’s tail and a fork for a hand). She is straight up a Muppet-style puppet and I want her to be my new best friend. Edgar is the new werewolf in town, a giant monster with a beautiful heart who just want to help people. He is a walk around puppet able to answer the door or manipulate props on set. Bernard is a giant monster in the basement, represented by a shadow and large glowing eyes. There’s even something living in the fridge, a tentacled beast who hands Christine just the right ingredient or tool at the right time. All of these characters have unique movement styles, voices, and personalities that just fit a world dedicated to the intricacies and joys of taking the time to DIY.
Christine McConnell is a calm and friendly host for the show. It takes her a few segments to find her on camera persona, but when it clicks about halfway through the second episode, it’s as magical as the puppets. Christine looks like a stereotypical sitcom housewife from the 50’s/60’s. She teaches her craft and culinary skills in that Martha Stewart/Ina Garten style: calm, patient, and undoubtedly an expert. She also knows her way around murder, mayhem, and disguising her roommates’ tracks when they commit to terror and crime. It’s a character and a role unlike any other in a lifestyle/DIY show.
The human supporting cast really sells this as an adult, horror-fueled tribute to PeeWee’s Playhouse. There’s Vivienne, played by Dita von Teese, the ghost of a woman who lives in Christine’s mirrors and gives her fashion and dating advice. There’s Mr. Ketchum, played by Steven Porter, an angry neighbor who is tired of the horrifying tricks and treats coming from Christine’s house at all hours of the night. Christine finds a boyfriend in Norman, played by Adam Mayfield, a charming serial killer she meets at the cemetery. Rounding out the ensemble is Evelyn, played by Colleen Smith, Christine’s money-hungry cousin prone to fits of arson and murder. The human actors play it up like they’re the supporting cast on a children’s TV show, even though their dialogue, behavior, and roles in the show are quite macabre.
If there is a small complaint to be made about The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell it is the clarity of the recipes and projects. This is definitely a DIY show for advanced crafters and bakers. Christine’s instructions are very clear for decorating, but rely on a fundamental understanding of the medium in question. Cookie recipes, for example, will tell you to start with a shortbread or sugar cookie base, but not give you the recipe for shortbread or sugar cookies. The decorating instructions are clear, but you need to put in the legwork to know how to properly stack and frost a cake or draft a sewing pattern to your measurements to fully follow along. It’s quite clear that Christine’s goal here is inspiration and new techniques rather than foundation skills, and at that she succeeds. Still, other shows with this kind of focus will have an accompanying website with more detailed directions or suggestions for preferred recipes to build off of.
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is just charming in every imaginable way. It has horror elements, but they’re cute and sold in broad sitcom strokes. The food and craft creations look amazing and make you want to try them at home. The puppets, ensemble, and simple plot each episode provide an entertaining frame for Christine to show off what she can do and it’s wonderful to watch.
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is currently streaming on Netflix.
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