A New Show Will Show a Different Side of Julia Child

August 16, 2017

Last fall, Comedy Central’s Drunk History presented a whimsical romp through the life and times of Julia Child. It was a deliriously entertaining episode, walking through the abridged biography of this culinary doyenne—all while narrator Lyric Lewis became more hammered, slurring consonants and belching mid-sentence.

The five-minute segment shed light on an aspect of Child’s life that’s largely been reduced to a footnote in her biography. Child, before she devoted her life to cooking, worked in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II as a typist and researcher.

On Tuesday, ABC Signature, a subsidiary of ABC Studios, announced it had acquired a show with the working title Julia. It's an hourlong, “darkly comedic dramedy” that’s set in an alternate reality, imagining what may have happened had the CIA capitalized on Child's newfangled celebrity and dragged her back into the world of intelligence as a spy.

The idea for the show had been percolating in writer Benjamin Brand’s head since he came across PBS’ Cooking Secrets of the CIA, a show that aired in the late-90s on PBS. Brand remembered being intrigued by that show’s title, but he was disappointed to find that the show wasn’t about the intelligence agency at all, but, instead, the Culinary Institute of America. Brand figured that the world could use a show about cooking and espionage, those two wholly dissimilar topics. Julia is a corrective to this malady.

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There’s unfortunately no word on when the show will hit airwaves yet. I can only hope a show that sounds this peculiar on paper won't languish in development purgatory, slouching slowly towards eventual death. Child would’ve been 105 this Tuesday, and, in spite of the fact that her cooking shows are regularly syndicated, I miss her dearly.

I wonder who'll play her this time around. Child is quite a demanding role, after all. Those vocal inflections! Those gesticulations! There are boundless renderings of Child on screen. Her spirit has been revived time and time again—by Meryl Streep with labored, infectious charm, most famously. The Drunk History segment featured Michaela Watkins in a non-speaking role. Don't forget Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live. Come back, John Candy.

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Top Comment:
“I manage to catch the odd episode of Julia Child's show on PBS. I just purchased My Life In France and The French Chef cookbook. I'm looking forward to the new show.”
— bellw67

It takes a special kind of actorly command to do a dead-on impression of Child. I’m ready for an actor who will be able to meet that directive and show us a side of Child we’ve never seen.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


bellw67 August 18, 2017
I manage to catch the odd episode of Julia Child's show on PBS. I just purchased My Life In France and The French Chef cookbook. I'm looking forward to the new show.
Ron S. August 18, 2017
suzybel63 you should also pick up French Chef in America. The second volume of Julia's life story, authored by her nephew Alex.
Mj L. August 16, 2017
I believe that's Culinary Institute if America...not Cooking.
Ron S. August 16, 2017
Apparently he/she really did their homework....
Nikkitha B. August 16, 2017
The error is all mine; thank you for flagging it.
Mj L. August 16, 2017
Nope...I remember about 20 yrs ago, first time I heard someone on a cooking show referred to as a CIA graduate...I also thought they meant the other I looked it up. I was beginning to wonder about all the spies who had become chefs.
Ron S. August 16, 2017
Hopefully it never "hits the air"